The Strathcona Regional District board approved spending more than $9,000 to repair the weathering Oyster River dike despite some directors questioning the fairness of everyone having to foot the bill.
The dike took a beating during a severe rain storm last Dec. 8 and spilled its banks. It’s at risk of breaching again and poses a safety threat to the Area D residents protected behind the dike, according to the regional district.
Russ Hotsenpiller, chief administrative officer of the regional district, said at the March 26 board meeting that part of the issue is that there has never been a service developed to deal with the dike.
“Across the province there’s disagreement between the province and local governments as to who owns these various river way construction and we fall into that category,” Hotsenpiller said. “What’s happened over the last 25 years is that, other than basic maintenance, there have been no costs associated with the dike but as time has gone on, it’s weathering and we’re starting to see some of the challenges associated with that.”
Hotsenpiller said that under the province’s Disaster Financial Assistance program that if the regional district is willing to put up 20 per cent ($9,367) of the repair costs for the dike, the province will pay the remaining 80 per cent ($36,133). Hotsenpiller recommended the regional district’s portion come out of the organization’s general administration fund.
But Campbell River Director Larry Samson questioned why all the communities should have to pay.
“I don’t feel it’s fair that we’re asked as a regional district to fund this because they decided there’s no service on this particular area,” Samson said. “We heard (the dike) is deteriorating but yet we heard nothing in the five-year financial plan that this is going to carry on so to me it’s a little bit like if you don’t want to pay for the service, why should the other partners in the regional district be expected to pick up the cost.”
Area D Director Brenda Leigh said she could understand where Samson was coming from and put forward a motion to have the funding for the dike come from the electoral areas general administration fund.
However, Hotsenpiller said he wasn’t sure if $9,000 was available from that fund to spend.
Director Charlie Cornfield wanted a more concrete answer.
“How do we make a decision if we don’t know it’s possible to do it?” he asked.
“You could pass it and if it’s possible, we’ll do it and if not, we won’t apply for the funding,” Hotsenpiller replied.
That concerned Cornfield.
“I would not wish to see us not apply because of the amendment (to switch to the electoral fund),” Cornfield said.
Cornfield then put forward a motion to have the regional district’s portion of the dike repairs funded through the electoral area administration but if not, from general administration.
That pleased Leigh who said Area D should not have to bear the brunt of the cost for repairs.
“Area D should not be responsible for that dike, in my opinion it’s the province’s responsibility and they are offering us 80 per cent of the money if we put in a grant application now,” Leigh said. “It’s not necessary to have all this angst over this. Let’s just get on with it.”
The board also approved allocating $1,415 of the money it received from Transport Canada to repair a twisted and buckled mooring dolphin on the Surge Narrows Wharf – one of three wharves the regional district took over ownership of from the federal government last November.
Directors also chose to allocate $4,184 from the Future Expenditure Reserve Fund to make repairs on the Oyster River Shoreline Trail. During the Dec. 8 storm, a portion of the trail was eroded and high flows on the Oyster River caused culvert and walkway damage along the trail.