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Boat launch proposal for below Grohman Narrows washed away by Teck decision

Teck has determined development of a public boat launch at the toe of the historical tailings storage area and dam are no longer possible.

The regional district has pulled the plug on the idea of securing a boat launch to service the Taghum and Blewett area.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay board of directors approved the staff recommendation to declare no further action with regard to future phases of the Taghum Blewett boat launch phase one feasibility study, and not pursue establishing a boat launch site below Grohman Narrows.

A land agreement with Teck Metals Ltd. was a key consideration in order for any of the three potential sites identified in the study to be developed as a boat launch.

Any chance of negotiating a land agreement was put to rest in a March 12 letter from Teck Trail Operations community relations leader Jayne Garry to RDCK corporate officer Mike Morrison.

“Teck has assessed the historical tailings storage area and associated dam adjacent to Fisherman Road, and in light of changing global tailings standards and internal Teck standards, the development of a public boat launch at the toe of the historical tailings storage area and dam are no longer possible,” she wrote.

Garry noted that Teck had assessed other lands in order to find a suitable location for a boat launch.

“Based on this assessment there are no other suitable sites to develop a public boat launch on Teck lands, due to ecologically sensitive species, archaeological values and challenging access,” she said.

Since the completion of the feasibility study the RDCK and Teck had been in discussions to determine the possibility of licensing one of three potential sites for development of a public boat launch.

With no potential site, the RDCK cannot move forward with the study, said RDCK regional parks planner, Mark Crowe.

“It is our understanding that Teck will continue to partner with the RDCK for the lease of land at Taghum Beach Regional Park, subject to the terms of the lease agreement,” he said.

“In 2020, the RDCK will develop a management plan for the park which will be informed by stakeholder and public consultation.”

But the boat launch project will not be proceeding and is not included in the financial plan.

Back to your roots

Six years ago, a grass roots petition gained some momentum as residents of Taghum, Beasley, Blewett and Bonnington banded together in the hope of creating a legal boat launch access point west of Nelson.

After the Taghum boat launch on Fisherman’s Road — 12 kilometres west of Nelson on the Kootenay River — was taken out of commission by Teck Trail Operations, residents assembled 300 names in protest and pursuit of regaining access, and attempted to form a boat launch society.

Located on Teck-owned private land, the issue surrounding the boat launch was about liability, with the lands deemed “contaminated” with the age-old tailings of the once active Kenville Mine in Blewett.

But it was the only spot on the river west of Nelson’s Lakeside Park launch that boaters, canoeists and kayakers could 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 was quite heavily used by people in the neighbouring rural communities, and it gave them easy access to the wide, calm waters of the river south of Taghum Beach Regional Park.

Possible boat launch sites

The feasibility of planning a boat launch was investigated for either the north or south side of the Kootenay River to service the Taghum and Blewett area.

These efforts resulted in the development of the Taghum Blewett boat launch phase one feasibility study, completed in July, 2018.

Further public consultation and assessment identified three potential sites, all of which are owned by Teck Metals Ltd:

  • the former Teck boat launch site on Fisherman’s Road;
  • the gravel bar at Fisherman’s Point; and
  • south east abutment of the old Taghum Bridge.

A fourth site, described as the northwest abutment of the old Taghum Bridge, was identified through public consultation but was discounted due to private land access, steep terrain, proximity to the CPR tracks, limitations to potential parking and staging areas and the RDCK’s understanding that there is little possibility of reaching a land agreement with the owners.

Taghum Beach Regional Park was not identified in the study as a potential site.

— Source: Regional District of Central Kootenay

Historical friction

Having part of its waterfront land as an informal recreation site has not sat well with Teck, and the company has tried to deny access for people putting their boats in there since 2010.

At the time Teck sold a property with a small, well used boat launch beside Taghum Hall to a private interest and the launch was blocked off to boaters. 

Boaters then moved to the next available boat launch spot on the western end of the Kootenay River — another Teck property but with no services, no parking and no wharf — on Fisherman’s Road.

Signs warning people off the waterfront — noting contamination — were put up but it did not stop boaters from putting in at the launch.

In mid 2012 Teck asserted its ownership of the waterfront property by reposting “no trespassing” signs at the boat launch area and along the road.

At the time, Teck community engagement coordinator Catherine Adair said the company reposted the signs in response to complaints it received from neighbourhood residents.

"(The property) isn't authorized or maintained as a boat launch," Adair told The Nelson Daily in 2012. "We are very open to that but we have to go through the public process."

That same year Teck contracted SNC Lavalin Engineering to conduct a site inspection, collecting both surface and ground water samples, as well as gathering soil and sediment for analysis.

Teck also hosted a community meeting in 2012 in regard to the launch, which focused on information gathering, and planned on hosting a second meeting to share findings from the engineering company.

Three years ago a concrete barricade was put in, only to have it removed a few weeks later by industrious residents.

— Source: The Nelson Daily files