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Regional board approves South Okanagan-Similkameen conservation fund

FILE PHOTO - Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen board members agreed to establish a regional conservation fund for the Okanagan at the Thursday, July 7, 2016 board meeting.
July 08, 2016 - 4:30 PM

PENTICTON - It’s taken more than a year, but South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program manager Bryn White has a commitment for a regional conservation fund — almost.

With the exception of Osoyoos, the regional district board voted yesterday, July 7, to support a sub-regional conservation service.

The vote comes months after White first approached the board in February, 2015, with the idea of creating a regional conservation fund that could be used to leverage higher levels of funding in support of local environmental initiatives.

Bryn presented the idea to various regional member municipalities and electoral areas over the past year, including Penticton council at a Committee of the Whole meeting last October.

Penticton council originally voted to opt out of the regional fund earlier this year, but following some second thoughts last month, reversed their position.

On Thursday, Osoyoos Director Sue McKortoff moved an amendment to remove Osoyoos from the service area, citing the need to consult with Osoyoos residents on the matter.

West Bench Director Michael Brydon resisted the amendment, saying environmental initiatives were regional in benefit, and those non-participating members could be considered “freeloading.”

“We need to think regionally. This belongs at the basin level,” Brydon said but was unable to sway McKortoff from opting out.

The cost of the new program is calculated at $10 a year for an average household valued at $343,000.

Public assent for the service is also needed, and will come by way of the alternate approval process.

The $10 tax is expected to generate around $500,000 annually, creating a fund that can be used to leverage further funding to go towards regionally based projects of environmental value. A task committee will be set up to provide project recommendations.

The fund is expected to be in place in time for the 2017 budget process.

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