Teck vows to create boat launch site on Kootenay River
A boat launch will be on its way for the rural area of Kootenay River west of Nelson, however, it will be at least one year away before it will realize its maiden voyage, according the region’s largest employer.
Teck Trail Operations has confirmed it is working with the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) on creating a boat launch on the section of the river 12 kilometres west of Nelson, a move that will effectively end the conflict with local residents over usage of the current unauthorized launch.
Catherine Adair, Teck Trail Operations community relations leader, said, in the wake of a public meeting with Blewett residents in January 2013, the company has continued communications with them since on finding an alternative boat launch site.
“Teck is supportive of the RDCK and the community determining an appropriate location for a public boat launch in the Blewett/Taghum region,” she said.
A grass roots petition circulating Taghum, Beasley, Blewett and Bonnington asking for the boat launch to stay open on Teck land off of Fisherman’s Road has nearly 300 names.
But seeing as that launch is located on Teck-owned private land, the issue surrounding the boat launch is about liability, since the lands have been deemed “contaminated” with the age-old tailings of the once active Kenville Mine in Blewett.
Adair said Teck is still assessing the impacts of historical tailings — not associated with Teck’s current or former operations — in the Fisherman’s Road area. The tailings were deposited intermittently between 1890 and 1956, but Teck and its predecessors did not own or operate the mine which generated the tailings.
The land, which includes the foreshore area that has been used as the boat launch, was acquired in 1931 prior to dam construction on the Kootenay River.
Preliminary results in 2014 indicated elevated levels of metals associated with the historical tailings in isolated areas along Fisherman’s Road, said Adair.
“The level of metals within these areas could potentially pose low health risks, in particular for young children, if they were to accidentally ingest the materials through extended play in the soil,” she said.
Pets should also be prevented from accessing these areas so they do not track contaminated soils into vehicles or homes.
The roadway materials are not contaminated and use of Fisherman’s Road is safe for people to drive on, said Adair. Additionally, there are no health concerns with fishing or swimming in the Kootenay River.
As a precaution, Teck has installed signage noting the elevated metals at locations along the road.
“We ask that the public not enter these areas, including the vicinity that has been used as an unauthorized boat launch,” Adair said.
But it is the only spot on the river west of Nelson’s Lakeside Park launch that boaters, canoeists and kayakers can put into the water, and not have to navigate the treacherous, fast flowing Grohman Narrows to reach the western section of the Kootenay River.
As a result, the boat launch is quite heavily used by people in the neighbouring rural communities.
In the meantime, remediation options are currently being developed by Teck and will be reviewed with the community prior to commencing.
“We expect the review to happen within the next year,” said Adair.
Since 2013, Teck’s contractor SNC-Lavalin has been sampling soils, sediment, surface water and groundwater in and around the Kootenay River near the junction of Fisherman’s Road and Granite Road.
Two years ago a concrete barricade was put in by Teck at the boat launch, only to have it removed a few weeks later by industrious residents.
Earlier this spring the barricade was put back in place by Teck, and it was removed soon after by residents. Three weeks ago a deep trench was dug across the dirt access point to the water, stopping people from backing their boat trailers across the land.
Once a suitable site is located, one possible scenario is Teck could turn over the land to the regional district and it, in turn, would be managed by a local society as a regional park (similar to Taghum Beach).
The petition is expected to be handed to the RDCK for consideration, as well as the formal process to launch a Taghum Boat Launch Society will begin.
A meeting is also scheduled to take place between some of the society’s potential members and Ramona Faust, the Area E RDCK director who is responsible for the region.