May 16, 2018
The North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA), an association of all local governments from 100 Mile north and from the Pacific to the Alberta border, just completed its annual convention in the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, Fort Nelson (FN), the farthest north local government in the NCLGA. It’s a lovely drive to FN up the historic Alaska Highway with its magnificent, wide-withdrawing vistas, and with the Northern Rockies standing boldly in the close background for much of the trip. At six hours from Chetwynd, the cruise is well worth your time if you have the time to spend. And FN, hard hit by the downturn in natural gas and the loss of its sawmill and plywood mill is still a beautiful and welcoming community with a stunning civic centre.
A funny thing happened on the way to the great north. We stopped for a rest break at a to-be-unnamed location. Noticing that the gasoline price was 164.9 per litre we said, “Wow, if it is 164.9 here, what will it be in FN? We’d better fill up here.” Well, you guessed right this time. Gas price in FN: 149.9.
High on the interest of the delegates and generating significant discussion was the looming crisis of the caribou recovery initiatives of the Federal and Provincial Governments that will affect to some degree the entire NCLGA region. The District of Chetwynd proposed an amendment to a motion already on the table that requires the NCLGA to strongly urge the Federal and Provincial Governments to give community health and viability high priority when pursuing the worthy objective of recovering the Southern and Central Mountain Caribou and to strongly urge the Federal and Provincial Governments to engage in real consultation with all affected communities before announcing decisions on actions that will affect our ability to survive as communities. From where I was sitting the vote appeared to be unanimous in support of the resolution and the amendment.
Another resolution put forward by the District of Chetwynd and the Peace River Regional District (PRRD) dealt with mitigation of flood danger. We are asking for changes to the regulations that now restrict access to stream beds without a months-long-with-uncertain-results application process to gain permission.
We who live here know that the streams that wreak so much havoc in a heavy-and-prolonged rainstorm are frequently dry for weeks at a time. Our request is to be able to enter the streams without a prohibitive application process during these prolonged dry-bed events to do flood mitigation work such as removal of excess gravel and other obstructions to water flow.
We are not asking for carte blanche access. We are assuming that guidelines and best practices would be developed which we would follow in our pre-emptive flood mitigation work. But we want this change to regulations soon because we know that the next storm is coming just as surely as death and taxes. Incidentally, highway repairs following the 2016 flood cost the province, that’s you and me, approximately 200 million dollars. Put that little sum beside the 2.5 million the PRRD received from the Provincial Government, and for which we are truly grateful, to tidy up the stream beds following the flood to get some measure of how far we will go to restore damage that, in many cases, could have been prevented or reduced.
I assumed that this proposal was a no-brainer at the NCLGA Convention, that delegates would recognize immediately its need and value. Never assume anything. One delegate proposed an amendment that would have eviscerated (cut the guts out of) the intent of the proposal and I had to speak vigorously in opposition to the amendment.
The resolution passed in FN, though it was not at all certain, but we still have the battle at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) in September and that battle will not be easy.
Oh, by the way, this NCLGA experience should remind us of an ancient proverb: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” So let’s keep our ammunition dry and our gas tanks full in preparation for UBCM.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor