Some Mt. Boucherie trails closed for wildfire mitigation work

Trails closed for fire work

Some hiking trails on West Kelowna’s Mt. Boucherie will be temporarily closed this month as crews work to remove wildfire fuels from the area.

Wildfire mitigation work began on Mt. Boucherie this week, and the work is expected to continue through the rest of May.

“The work will involve the pruning of low lying branches, thinning the tree canopy, removing dying and dangerous trees, clearing overgrown shrubs and ground debris and hauling forest fire fuels from the site,” City of West Kelowna spokesperson Jason Luciw said in a statement.

The work has begun on the northern slopes of the mountain, east of Jim Lind Arena and Royal LePage Place, and crews will be gradually working west each day, finishing at the Rush Trail by the end of the month.

Trails will be temporarily closed in the area over the next few weeks, and city staff will post signs to alert hikers to the specific closures.

The wildfire mitigation work is funded through the provincial government’s BC Community Resiliency Investment Program. Similar work was completed in and around Eain Lamont Park last year

Developer suing City of West Kelowna over infrastructure charges


Developer suing city

A developer is taking the City of West Kelowna to court over $750,000 in infrastructure charges the municipality forced upon the builder.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in BC Supreme Court, Ironclad Developments alleged the city did not follow policy when finalizing a latecomer agreement to fund the construction of Gosset Road between Eilliot and Brown roads

Latecomer agreements are used by municipalities to fund infrastructure required to support development. An initial developer pays for the costs of infrastructure improvements up front and subsequent developers who benefit from that work within 15 years must pay for a portion of the work in the form of latecomer fees.

In the case now before the courts, Ironclad Developments is disputing the $749,000 latecomer fee imposed by the city in relation to its four-building, 193-unit apartment project at 3623 Elliott Road.

The lawsuit alleges the fee was originally estimated to be $397,000, but it dramatically increased after cost increases associated with the construction of Gosset Road.

Ironclad claims the city did not give the company the chance to provide feedback on the costs associated with the new road, as outlined in city policy.

“Instead, after months of ignoring Ironclad’s requests to review relevant information and to make submissions, the city simply gave notice to Ironclad that it had delegated the matter to a quantity surveyor,” the lawsuit says.

The city would accept that surveyor’s conclusions and imposed the fee on Ironclad while tying its payment to the occupancy permit for the project’s first building.

On Nov. 20, 2020, the city told Ironclad that the fee amount was final and invited the company to go to court if it wanted to dispute it further. The company paid the fee, under protest, 10 days later.

“Ironclad submits that the process by which the city made the decision — including without input from the only latecomer and in absence of review by an independent third party engineer — was unreasonable,” the lawsuit claims.

The company is seeking an order that the $749,000 latecomer fee be returned and that the city reconsider the charge and explain its decision in writing with documentation.

None of the allegations contained in the lawsuit have been proven and the City of West Kelowna has not filed a response in court.

West Kelowna Warriors request highway sign promoting arena


Warriors seeking a sign

The West Kelowna Warriors are lobbying the city for a new sign on Highway 97 to promote Royal Lepage Place.

City council will discuss a request from the team on Tuesday for a 24-foot high sign at the corner of Hwy 97 and Bartley Road.

“It is quite common for municipal events facilities, like Royal Lepage Place, to have signage on nearby thoroughfares to increase the profile of the facility and promote the events held within,” the team said in its written request to the city.

“We believe a significant presence on Highway 97 will increase the awareness of the 1500-seat Royal Lepage Place, as well as provide the opportunity to communicate relevant messaging of upcoming community events and drive more patrons to the facility.”

The Warriors say many residents may not be aware of the amenities at Royal Lepage Place and the sign would improve awareness.

The sign would cost between $60,000 and $75,000. The Warriors says they are “open to exploring subsidizing a portion of these costs.”

“However, given the residual benefits for City and the naming rights partner, we are asking for financial support on this project.”

Calls for provincial resources to support nurses continue as Canada recognizes National Nursing Week, May 10-16


Supporting B.C. nurses

Today marks the start of National Nursing Week.

Not only will this week be a celebration of the nursing profession, but it will also serve as a week for the community to thank those on the front lines who have been pushed to their limits due to COVID-19.

As B.C.’s politicians send messages of thanks in recognition of the exceptional commitment nurses have shown to their patients, BCNU President Christine Sorensen is asking for government to go one step further and put their words into real action.

B.C. nurses have continually experienced difficulties accessing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) since the beginning of the pandemic.

Sorensen says their concerns are heightened as the risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19 was confirmed by the BC Centre for Disease Control last week, making appropriate access to PPE all the more essential to their personal safety.

“Our nurses are exhausted, showing signs of burn out and an overall decline in their mental health. The pandemic continues to expose just how vulnerable our health-care system truly is when it comes to not having enough nurses,” says Sorensen.

“We need action on this now so that we have enough nurses to care for patients today and in the future. All British Columbians need to press government for a real plan to support the nurses we have and ensure we all have the professional nursing care we need,” she added.

BCNU is asking everyone to join this week in recognizing the crucial role nurses play every single day across B.C.

To support its members, the union is providing a series of virtual self-care events that focus on the well-being of nurses throughout National Nursing Week. The full line up of the week’s events can be found here.

“Collectively we need to support nurses as they cope with the pandemic. We felt National Nurses week was a good time to show our support for their mental health and all that they do every day for British Columbians,” says Sorensen.

Popular Slocan Valley trail closure a blow to local tourism


Popular peak closed

One of the Slocan Valley’s most popular tourist attractions is going to remain closed until further notice.

“The Idaho Lookout Forest Service Road will remain closed for this field season. There is no alternate route of vehicular access to the trailheads,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development has told the Valley Voice.

The spokesperson said FLNRORD has not completed any work on the Idaho Lookout FSR since June of 2020 and the road remains barricaded and closed to the public.

Visitors and locals alike were very disappointed when a violent thunderstorm last May 31 washed out a stretch of the 12-kilometre road to the two trailheads to the lookout, one of the easier-to-access viewpoints in the valley.

Last year, road inspectors said an overwhelmed culvert was plugged and stormwaters swept away the road surface in a number of spots along a half-kilometre segment of the narrow, winding road. The disaster immediately closed the road for the season, though eventually a mining company working in the area managed to re-open a segment of the service road for its use. The vehicle path to the lookout, however, remains closed while initial assessment work continues.

“Selkirk Resource District is currently seeking capital funding to complete the preliminary field assessments from last season. This will determine the best course of action,” the departmental spokesperson said. “Works this field season will include survey and design of the suitable repair/relocation options and will then follow up with a completed project budget request.”

Loss for tourism

Idaho Peak is one of the most photographed viewpoints in the Arrow Slocan region due to its panoramic views, endless alpine flowers, and an ease of access alpine that is rare to find locally. It is a very popular spot for both residents and visitors to the region.

Located at over 2100 meters, the views offered from both parking locations are stunning.

“This was a place where visitors had opportunity to experience the magnitude of the region’s incredible mountains without a multi-hour hike,” said Megan Chadwick of Arrow Slocan Tourism. “It was certainly a tourism draw and when coupled with a stop in at the ghost town of Sandon, made for a full day adventure that appealed to a wide range of visitors.”

Another tourism official in the Slocan Valley says they receive calls inquiring about the lookout every day during the summer.

“This is a major tourist attraction. Many people come here specifically to do Idaho Peak,” says Melanie Bodry, the New Denver Visitor Centre manager. “I believe the loss of access to this site, coupled with the closures on Galena Trail we had last season, are detrimental to local hot spot hikes. These are by far our most-hiked trails by visitors.”

There are one or two lookouts similar to Idaho Peak in the area, says Bodry, but none have the ease of access for tourists of all ages and physical condition that made Idaho Peak special. And she reminds people to be prepared if they plan to seek out other viewpoints in the valley.

“Many travellers cannot access hikes off of forestry roads due to the rough terrain,” Bodry says. “Last season we saw several stranded tourists on back roads trying to access hikes. It can be really dangerous to send anyone up to these off-road hikes… especially if they’re not equipped to deal with four flat tires!

“Nothing is really comparable to our beloved Idaho Peak.

A gold mine in the hills off the Okanagan Connector is set to go back into production

There could be as much as $1 billion in gold deposits, maybe more, in an old abandoned mine a few kilometres behind the Elkhart Lodge off the Okanagan Connector.

Vancouver-based Gold Mountain Mining announced late last week it has received a Notice of Departure, paving the way for it to begin mine construction.

In a statement released Friday, the company says it expects to begin construction at the site later this month, with ore delivery expected late in the year.

“Receiving this Notice of Departure allows us to take the critical steps of upgrading our existing water management system, installing a weigh scale, as well as leveraging a gravel borrow to start stripping waste from our initial pit and repurpose it into aggregate needed to resurface roads throughout the property, said company CEO Kevin Smith said in the statement.

“By getting into construction early, we will be ready to hit the ground running once our various mine permit amendments are approved. Since acquiring this project, we were very clear about our intent to quickly put this mine back into production, with efficient deployment of capital.

“With the snow on site nearly gone, our mine construction partner, Nhwelmen-Lake LP, has been notified to begin mobilizing their equipment, in anticipation of developing BC’s next high grade gold and silver producer.”

Cole Evans co-founder of HEG and Associates, the Kelowna-based geological contractor for the mine, says reopening the mine is great news for the industry throughout the Okanagan and the Southern Interior.

“If you go back to Chuck Fipke and Dia Met and all these companies…you have a lot of specialized skill in this town that is growing faster than maybe people realize,” said Evans, referring to the Kelowna-based diamond prospector who struck it rich in the arctic.

“This is a cool example of all these people coming together on a project that is in our own backyard.”

Along with specialized mining expertise, he says once construction ramps up in the coming weeks they will need plumbers, electricians, people to build foundations, equipment rentals and so on.

Evans says gold was first discovered in the region during construction of the Okanagan Connector in the late 1980’s.

The mine has been dormant since about 2010.

While the mine will begin extracting ore later this year, Evans says Gold Mountain Mining ramping up production by 2025, when it hopes to generate about 324,000 tonnes a year.

Penticton gym hosting outdoor silent disco spin classes is first of its kind in the Okanagan


Silent disco spin a local first

Get ready to get moving with a class that’s the first of its kind in the Okanagan — Outdoor silent disco spin classes.

Pure Gym & Juicery is encouraging movement and adapting to provincial health orders by taking their spin classes to the lawns at the Penticton Lakeside Resort.

The fitness team has not been able to run a spin class in person since Nov. 20 of 2020 due to the health orders.

“So when that happened we swapped over to virtual which is just a totally different experience because it’s through a computer screen. But now that the weather has changed, on May 1 we kicked off our outdoor classes,” said Pure owner Vanessa Jahnke.

“But then we were running into an issue of the sound, such an important piece to our spin classes is super awesome music.”

Jahnke checked into what all the big cities were doing to adapt, following big brands like SoulCycle to find that they all went to the silent disco system.

“So we just immediately purchased one and it’s been incredible!”

Each participant wears a Bluetooth headset to hear the music and the instructor’s voice during the class and can control their own volume level.

“Some people just love to get lost in the music and blast the beats and some people like it a little lower, so that’s been super good feedback, it’s been really really positive all around,” Jahnke added.

All equipment is sanitized after each class and the bikes are all a minimum of ten feet apart, with a maximum of ten people allowed.

“We launched last Tuesday with 16 classes a week and they filled up right away. Almost every class is waitlisted right now.”

All skill levels are invited to come down and get into the new style of spinning.

“What we’ve been seeing this past week is everyone has been really nervous to get back on the bike, because literally, no one has been spinning for five months, even our instructors,” Jahnke said.

“We’re all starting from baseline again so don’t be scared, don’t be nervous, just come and get moving again.”

Pure’s gym, juice bar and personal training are also up and fully running.

“The number one thing we’ve been hearing this week is that it’s so nice to have the community back together, just seeing people in person and sharing that energy that we so crave when we’re in group fitness classes.”

For more information and to sign up for a silent disco class, visit the website here.

B.C. First Nation joins calls for Ottawa to step in on review of Alberta coal project


First Nation enters coal fray

A British Columbia First Nation wants the federal government to join in the environmental review of a proposed coal-mining project in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.

The Ktunaxa First Nation says Montem Resources’ Tent Mountain project would have effects beyond the provincial boundary.

It points out the project might dump waste rock and wastewater in B.C.

The Ktunaxa also suggest the miner tailored its project description to come in just under a production threshold that would require federal involvement.

They say the project, near the town of Coleman, Alta., could result in significant cumulative effects when added to other coal mines proposed for the area.

The Ktunaxa say Alberta is unlikely to conduct any meaningful consultation with the band.

Two Alberta First Nations, as well as landowners and environmental groups, have also requested federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson step in.

Okanagan Nation Alliance returns Chinook to their historical habitat in Okanagan Falls for first time in 70 years


Historic Chinook return

The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) has reintroduced Chinook salmon above Vaseux Lake at sx???x??nitk? (pronounced S-hoho-neet-kwa) Provincial Park — also known as Okanagan Falls — for the first time in 70 years.

“We are releasing Chinook back into their historical habitat,” says Herb Alec, hatchery building operator for the Penticton Indian Band.

The release — which took place on April 20 — was ceremonial, says Alec. They kept it small, planning “to release a lot more in the coming days and weeks.”

“We’re hoping to achieve the return of the Chinook… big enough numbers that the Okanagan people can go back to subsiding on them, living off them, using them for ceremonial purposes,” he says.

In previous years, the ONA has released Chinook salmon at multiple locations on Syilx Territory — in the Oliver area, along the Penticton river channel and at the En’owkin Centre — to increase their survival rate, he says.

“There are a lot of predators in Vaseux Lake, but this year we did things a little differently,” says Alec. “We raised these fish quite a bit bigger so that they can survive.”

Alec says he’s worked with the hatchery for seven years, and he feels called to be a steward of the water, replenishing fish stocks in the Okanagan’s lakes and rivers as his great-grandfather did.

“My great-grandfather was Martin Louie. He was the Salmon Chief for the Okanagan as well as the upper Columbia,” he says. “I feel like it’s a responsibility being passed down.

“Any time we bring fish back, it’s important to the culture.”

‘Chinook is one of our four food chiefs’

Thousands of years ago, Alec says sx???x??nitk? was a big fishing site for Okanagan Nation members.

“It is culturally significant and that’s why we had a ceremony on it,” says Alec.

sx???x??nitk? translates from nsyilxc?n, the Syilx language, to English as “little falls.” Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Indian Band says the place has a cultural connection to the Kettle Falls in Washington state.

In 1915, Louie says the colonial government wrongfully took sx???x??nitk? under the McKenna–McBride Royal Commission, without input or agreement from the Osoyoos Indian Band.

“This was our reserve number two,” says Louie. “[The government] took away a lot of reserve lands and this one was one of the most important fishing grounds for our people.”

Overall, this commission had a “significant impact on Indian peoples’ reserve land base by adding to, reducing and eliminating reserves throughout the province,” according to a summary of the commision by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

Last summer, IndigiNews reported on rising tensions between a local property owner, fishers from the Okanagan Nation and John Kruger, the former Penticton Indian Band Chief, around access to a traditional sx???x??nitk? fishing spot.

“It’s very significant that we have access to our fish at all times,” says Louie.

“Chinook is one of our four food chiefs … It’s part of our heritage and culture and our people fished and gathered here for thousands of years, and it’s our responsibility to make sure the salmon come back.”

The biggest release of Chinook so far

The ONA has been releasing salmon in Okanagan river and lakes to replenish stocks since 2004.

On April 20, the ONA released approximately 500-1000 Chinook salmon into sx???x??nitk?, says Alec.

They’re hoping to see 50-100 Chinook return “at most,” says Alfred Snow, a fishery technician with the ONA. In the future, as they release more Chinook into sx???x??nitk?, they’re hoping to see 3,000-10,000 return, he adds.

This year, ONA released Chinook at several locations along the Okanagan River, which Snow says is “the biggest release of Chinook we’ve had so far.”

“There’s probably about 25,000 in total that will have been released from the hatchery,” he says.

The Okanagan Chinook population has been “designated as endangered,” says Elinor McGrath, the ONA fisheries biologist. She works closely with the Chinook salmon stock assessment and biological sampling program.

“My role is overseeing and enumeration of the Okanagan River and working on Okanagan Chinook recovery,” she says.

This year, a good portion of the Chinook have been tagged with small tags, she says, so they will be detected when they swim over receivers the ONA has placed at spots along the Okanagan and Columbia Rivers.

“We gain a lot of information on their migration behavior, their timing, their survival, where do they go, where might they be dying and what can we do about it,” McGrath says.

“When they come back in four or five years, we understand more information about their returns.”

The ONA is hoping to learn more about Chinooks’ life history, so that ultimately they can bring them back to their original spawning grounds.

“Chinook are important for our ecosystem and cultural reasons. They’re just amazing what they do,” says McGrath. “So personally, I feel that this is really important to maintain and recover these species.”

RCMP will notify the public when a travel road check is active in BC


Notification of road checks

The RCMP says it will be notifying the public when a road check for non-essential travel is active in B.C. and expect to be taking an educational approach while screening motorists, with the expectation that most residents will comply with the travel ban.

Chief Superintendent Dave Attfield issued that statement hours after solicitor general Mike Farworth authorized police to conduct road checks, and more than a week after the National Police Federation raised concerns over police involvement, saying such enforcement would put officers at greater risk and further stretch limited resources.

Farnworth unveiled more details on the travel ban Friday, including the fact road checks will only be conducted to limit travel within certain regions of the province, and will not keep travellers from other provinces out.

Attfield stressed the emphasis for police will be on educating the public about the order.

“(We will be) identifying whether or not the purpose for travel is essential as listed in the order, and providing every opportunity for travellers to turn around voluntarily,” said Attfield.

“It is anticipated that the vast majority of travellers will voluntarily comply, minimizing the need for enforcement.”

Such enforcement, Farnworth outlined earlier in the day, could include a $575 fine for breaking the health order.

Attfield says the RCMP is in the process of determining where checks will be conducted, but stressed random checks of vehicles or people will not be conducted as part of the road checks.

“Enforcement will only occur at the designated road check locations on highways 1, 3, 5 and 99 near to the boundaries between the combined Coastal and Fraser Health regions and the combined Northern and Interior Health regions.

“When a road check is active, a notification will also been made on the BC RCMP website and social media channels.”

Signs will also be placed well enough ahead of the road check to give motorists an opportunity to safely turn around if the purpose of their travel is not essential.

Attfield also indicated all checks will be conducted by a dedicated team, and will not impact police service in communities the RCMP serve.

“In preparation for the upcoming checks we would ask the public review the restrictions and provisions that the provincial government has issued, and to avoid non-essential travel between the Lower Mainland/Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, and Northern/Interior regions.”