Regional District of East Kootenay Board Director said 2021 was a mixed year of ups and downs, with a record-setting heat, fires and floods, but development investment remained high.
Board Director Rob Gay said responding to a number of emergency events marked 2021, as the Regional Emergency Operations Centre has been active for 84 days throughout the year, up to December 1st.
“These indicators of climate change are here to stay and we’re planning around that. We’re seeing a greater frequency of fires and more floods and drought is another thing that’s affecting our region,” said Gay.
More: Many Creston Valley crops fail in record-breaking heat (July 30, 2021)
More: Nearly 600 people died in B.C. due to extreme summer heat (Nov. 1, 2021)
More: Heavy rain causes flooding and road closures in Elk Valley (Nov. 15, 2021)
Throughout 2021, RDEK residents were subjected to a heat dome, wildfire smoke and flooding throughout the year, all in the midst of a pandemic.
“The real critical issue that we’re trying to deal with is the water deficit in the south country. Lots of work has been done around that, but certainly, aquafer around the Banes Lake area, Surveyors Lake and those kettle ponds are dropping at an alarming rate.”
More: RDEK holds varying views on how to rectify Koocanusa’s low water levels (Feb 16, 2021)
Gay said the South Country water crisis is causing problems for both residents and the local environment.
On the positive side, Gay said development investment in the RDEK has remained over $200-million for the third year in a row.
“This year, as of December 1st, our permit values have passed over $277-million.,” said Gay. “Those dollars ended up building about 600 homes, many of them multi-purpose homes, it employs a lot of tradespeople and the whole group that supplies those tradespeople. It’s a real economic stimulator for our business community. We do not see that changing moving into 2022, there’s a high demand from people living in cities who want to live a more rural life and we’re seeing a lot of people relocate to our area.”
The RDEK also adopted several significant planning projects throughout the year, including the Steamboat Jubilee Mountain Official Community Plan, while the Columbia Lake Management Plan will be up for adoption in early 2022.
More: RDEK adopts Steamboat Jubilee Mountain OCP (Apr 10, 2022)
Gay complimented the work done by local non-profit groups in their work to expand recreational opportunities within the RDEK.
“Most of that work is done through the efforts of these not-for-profits, they organize the events and apply for grants,” said Gay. “We’re seeing their work throughout the East Kootenay, and it’s a real benefit to all of our residents.”
In 2022, Gay anticipates the RDEK to focus on what he dubbed “the three Cs” – Climate Change, COVID-19 and Cybercrime.
“We have some large dollar mitigation projects, and one is a multi-million dollar project. The second C is COVID, we still have to manage our way through it. I am so thankful for our staff and the public and our volunteer committees that we’ve been able to use various virtual methods to continue doing business,” said Gay. “The third one we really have to pay attention to is cybercrime. I’ve been reading quite a bit about it and it seems like all of us, whether you’re in business or at home, have to be careful. People are saying it’s not a matter of if you get hit, it’s when you get hit. We’ve seen this in other municipalities with ransomware where people are locked out. We saw it recently in Maritimes with their whole health care system being frozen.”
Gay closed out by giving residents a positive note to usher in 2022.
“On behalf of our board and our staff, I’d like to everybody a healthy and prosperous year in 2022,” said Gay.