Victoria has backed off any immediate plans to sell property around high-elevation reservoir lakes.
The provincial government has placed a decision on Okanagan reservoir lake lots on hold for two years so consultation can take place with local communities and First Nations.
“It’s very positive,” said James Baker, Lake Country mayor.
Baker has been concerned the sale of Crown lease lots would lead to urbanized development, impacting water quality for communities that depend on the reservoirs.
There has also been the issue of water quantity.
“We have no place else to store water in the uplands. If there is development, it would be difficult to increase storage,” said Baker.
Besides the District of Lake Country, the Greater Vernon Services Committee and the North Okanagan Regional District have been opposed to the sale of reservoir lots.
“The province is aware of the pressure on the water sources in the Okanagan and as such no decision will be made until communities are able to complete the necessary hydrology studies,” states the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands in a release.
“The studies will help determine future storage needs and capacity, and are expected to take approximately two years to complete. During this two-year period critical information will be compiled on the state of the water sources in the Okanagan.”
The ministry indicates that it is committed to making an informed, balanced decision regarding the possible sale of recreational properties on reservoirs.
“During the next two years the province will continue to work with local elected officials and First Nations to ensure any new information about the potential impact sales may have on water quality, and the ability to expand the reservoirs, is reviewed.”
Baker insists that Okanagan communities should have been consulted on the matter some time ago, and he supports the process being expanded to include First Nations.
“We respect the Okanagan Nation Alliance’s title rights and those of the Okanagan Indian Band, and the watersheds are part of their rights and title lands,” he said.
“How can we do anything unless we involve them?”
Baker isn’t sure why the provincial government would expand public access to watersheds when other regions in B.C. have been allowed to follow a different direction.
“The City of Victoria has closed its watershed and Vancouver’s watershed has been closed for years. There must be some merit to it,” he said.