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Environment becomes priority for the City of Grand Forks

(L-R) Councillors Cher Wyers, Chris Moslin, Trustee Sally Garcelon, and Regional Director Irene Perepolkin at the city's environment committee; Photo, Mona Mattei
The growing pressure to address environmental concerns in the Grand Forks area led city council to increase the mandate of their air quality committee to become the new environment committee tackling air, water and climate change.
Chaired by Councillor Chris Moslin, the new committee held its inaugural meeting last week. Twenty-one people came out to the meeting to participate in sub-committees in the different areas. Discussion at the meeting was initially quite broad, providing an opportunity for members to hear about the different focus areas.
 
“There are basically three mandates. That’s not to say they are the only environmental issues. They are the three things that council has asked us to start with a major focus on,” said Moslin. “They are, I think, pressing. We’re trying to engage the community through this committee and I think our community is ready to be engaged.”
 
Moslin confidently agreed to continue to head up the air quality sub-committee for the group as well as chairing the committee of the whole. As an update on air quality, Moslin said there is a second dispersion model study being done with the Ministry of Environment footing the bill at a cost of about $4000 - 5000.
 
“The dispersion model is about where (the air) is going. Who is impacted by what emissions? We have a really good one come back in late fall and summer of last year. Unfortunately the weather data was not consistent amongst the weather stations (used,)” said Moslin. “Eventually, MOE has agreed to re-run the model, they have agreed to pay for re-running the model. We will be receiving the report by the end of this month.”
 
Moslin also added that the city has agreed to provide a new weather station on the top of Observation Mountain in its upcoming budget. This will include a webcam of the valley and it is hoped that the station will become accredited.
 
Councillor Cher Wyers will oversee the water sub-committee for the group. MLA John Slater was on hand to talk about the province’s initiative to change the Water Act. The public consultation for the proposed changes closes on Feb. 21 and can be accessed online. Regional Director for Area D, Irene Perepolkin was also on hand to update everyone about the Kettle River Watershed Committee’s progress to date. The committee is waiting for proposals for consultants to undertake the study which is expected to be completed this year.
 
Questions were raised about the use of water along the river by agriculture, and industry. In particular, the proposed reservoirs for Big White Ski Resort and International Forest Product’s proposed co-generation plant in Grand Forks. Slater assured the group that water licencing in Canada will be a priority for the province as they negotiate water flows with United States partners, and that large extractions along the Kettle will be regulated.
 
“Licences have been historically used for Canadians to help Canadians and I think that will remain so,” said Slater. “The water study that we’re doing will say, okay, if we hold back some water upstream – you can’t use (the water) all at once. It’s August and September that the water levels go way down. So if we can hold it back to utilize it for farming, for industry I think this will help.”
 
Carbon neutrality will be Councillor Gene Robert’s domain as they look at how to offset the city’s carbon footprint. Of all the sub-committees this one has the best opportunities for funding, said Robert.
 
“One of the things I would like our sub-committee to do – there is training available with Climate Smart, and maybe that’s one of the first goals that we should talk about,” said Robert. “Climate Smart can be as big as you want or it can be as individual as you want. It’s recognizing the fact that we have to start making an effort to save our climate.”

Although sub-committees were struck at the meeting, they continue to welcome community members to join up. The next meeting of the whole committee will be Feb. 25 at 11:00 a.m. at the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary’s offices. Sub-committees will be meeting to set goals and budgets in the meantime.