The debate to keep the Kootenay Lake ferry terminal in Balfour returned Thursday at a contentious Regional District of Central Kootenay meeting.
Arguments in favour of relocating the Balfour ferry terminal made by Herve Blezy of the East Shore Advocacy Society were heard by the RDCK board of directors, but only after a failed attempt by Area E director Ramona Faust to have the presentation removed from the agenda.
In November 2016, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure cited public outcry as the reason it decided to keep the terminal in Balfour despite an SNC-Lavalin report earlier that year recommending a move to Queens Bay.
Now, over two years later, Blezy wants the reasons for that decision re-examined.
“The consultation appeared to be very unbalanced,” said Blezy. “There were only face-to-face meetings on the West Shore. There were no face-to-face meetings on the East Shore. In reality, there should have been consultation all the way from Castlegar to Cranbrook, Salmo, Kaslo … They really missed getting the entire region.
“This is a regional issue, not a local issue.”
Last June the transportation ministry reiterated plans to keep the terminal in Balfour, where it has been since 1947. It also announced further dredging was required near the terminal, and that a new vessel to replace the MV Balfour would be sailing by 2022.
But Blezy told RDCK directors there’s still time for the plan to change course and requested a letter of support.
He cited SNC-Lavalin’s report, which stated moving the terminal to Queens Bay would reduce the travel distance from nine to 5.4 kilometres and transit times from 50 to 30 minutes.
The report also estimated relocation would cost $25 million, as opposed to the $36-to-$40 million required to upgrade the Balfour terminal and replace the ferry.
Blezy said the plan to keep the ferry terminal where it is runs counter to regional climate change initiatives.
“It is the largest energy improvement opportunity that I see in the district. I can’t believe that we’re not going to try to act upon it.”
Faust, whose electoral area includes Balfour and Queens Bay, said she did not believe Blezy should have been heard without advocates speaking for the West Shore.
“I believe the regional district board has to be impartial, and if not impartial has to be fair,” said Faust. “I also believe there are issues that are beyond our mandate and it is easy to use us as a political instrument. I believe this was one of those times.”
Her motion to block the presentation was defeated 8-7. Area F director Tom Newell spoke in favour of Faust’s motion. Area A director Garry Jackman, who represents Kootenay Bay and the East Shore, said he felt Blezy should be heard and was supported by directors Walter Popoff (Area H) and Andy Davidoff (Area I).
Chair Aimee Watson said the district has also received a request to speak from West Shore advocates.
Faust said reopening the debate is unfair to Queens Bay and Balfour residents, and the board can’t support the presentation without hearing from her constituents.
“People whose homes would be expropriated or put at risk, people whose businesses rely on the location of the ferry landing, people who have a concern about ecological impacts of our water system.”
The board did not hold a vote following Blezy’s presentation.
Although the regional district has no direct control of the terminal’s location, in August 2016 it granted $8,960 to the Queens Bay Residents Association to study the impacts of relocating the terminal.