Province extends comment period for Kootenay ferry relocation
Opponents raise concerns about impacts on local business and environment
Concerned B.C. residents have three more months to comment on a government plan to relocate one of the Kootenay Lake ferry landings.
The existing western terminal is located at Balfour, where it first opened in 1947. But a Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) plan would see the terminal moved to Queen's Bay, further north up Kootenay Lake.
The period for public comment was scheduled to end last week, but now residents will have till October to submit their feedback.
While the plan itself is contentious among local residents, the extension for public comment is welcome news.
"The government dropped a 176-page bombshell on the community and gave us less than a month to respond to it," said Robin Goldsbury, an opponent to the plan.
According to the government report, "recent studies have revealed significant navigation issues in the west arm that will require dredging."
In addition, MOTI said the site is no longer ideal to handle the increasing levels of ferry traffic, which are impacting the area.
The narrow channel is difficult to navigate, which is causing damage to ferry propellers, according to government documents.
The plan to relocate the terminal is one of two options, the other being extensive maintenance to the existing terminal in Balfour.
Economic and environmental impacts
According to a citizens' group called 'Choose Balfour,' dozens of businesses have developed in the area specifically because of traffic from the terminal.
The group says 60 people depend on the ferry for work, directly and indirectly. Members say those jobs, and the entire economy around Balfour are at risk if the relocation goes ahead.
The group also expressed concerns about environmental impacts to wildlife and fish habitats through the relocation.
Petition nearing goal
Another opponent, John Betts, said while he is pleased with the extension, doesn't mean the government is necessarily willing to listen to the public's concerns.
"We want to have more than an opportunity to send in emails and petitions," said Betts. "We want to work with the government."
As of Wednesday, an online petition, "Stay the Course: Preserve Queens Bay, Choose Balfour Ferry Landing," has garnered 1,625 signatures, two-thirds of the way to the goal of 2,500.
The new deadline for public comment is now Oct. 6, 2016.
With files from Bob Keating