Rail purchase depends on voters

CSRD and RDNO seeking approval from voters to borrow funds to buy rail corridor from Spallumcheen to Sicamous

The future of a proposed recreational corridor is in the hands of voters.

The Columbia-Shuswap and North Okanagan regional districts have both given three readings to bylaws that would acquire the abandoned Canadian Pacific line from Spallumcheen to Sicamous. However, voter assent for borrowing is needed first.

“We are at first base and we will go from there and see what they (residents) say,” said Herman Halvorson, a Regional District of North Okanagan director from rural Enderby.

The total purchase price of the 48-kilometre corridor is $6.51 million, with $2.17 million coming from the provincial government.

RDNO plans to borrow its entire $2.17 million contribution, with the service area including Armstrong, Enderby, Spallumcheen, Lumby, Area D (rural Lumby) and Area F (rural Enderby).

Within the CSRD, a service area will also be established for proposed borrowing of $1.83 million. The service area will include Salmon Arm, Sicamous, Area E (rural Sicamous), Area D (Falkland-Deep Creek), Area C (South Shuswap) and Area F (North Shuswap).

The remainder of CSRD’s $2.17 million will come from the Sicamous/Area E Economic Opportunity Fund ($250,000) and the Revelstoke/Area B’EOF Fund ($100,000).

An alternate approval process will be used in both regional districts to gain voter assent for borrowing. Over a 30-day period (dates have not been established), residents in the proposed service areas can sign a petition in opposition and if 10 per cent of voters sign in either service area, borrowing is defeated.

The other option was a referendum but regional district staff didn’t recommend that because of the tight time frame to close the purchase agreement. Subject removal clauses must be removed in 90 days.

Janice Brown, Spallumcheen director, isn’t concerned voters will deny borrowing.

“I absolutely know that they support this. We need to hold on to the land for generations to come,” she said.

Brown added that even if the corridor is purchased, it doesn’t mean money will be immediately spent to develop the corridor for recreational or transportation uses.

While Armstrong, Spallumcheen, Enderby and Area F are adjacent to the former track, Lumby and Area D are some distance away.

However, Lumby director Kevin Acton defends his community’s potential participation in borrowing funds.

“We don’t want to see a lineal corridor like that disappear. I think people will understand protecting corridors has a long-term vision,” he said.

Greater Vernon jurisdictions are not assisting with the purchase of the Spallumcheen to Sicamous line, but Acton points out that the Greater Vernon communities put money towards the former rail track from Coldstream to Kelowna.

If the RDNO borrowing proceeds, it’s anticipated that the annualized cost over 20 years will be $159,000. Based on improvements, that would break down to $31,864 for Armstrong, $17,347 for Enderby, $46,142 for Spallumcheen, $14,008 for Lumby, $18,667 for Area D and $30,973 for Area F.

“It retains the transportation corridor and it will be good for tourism,” said Halvorson.

The partnership includes the Splatsin, which owns a portion of the rail corridor.