CRD seeks hydro tax, dam inspection relief

Rural areas, agricultural producers drawing the short straws

The Cariboo Regional District board has passed three resolutions put forward by its area directors for the upcoming North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA) convention in May.

Their hope is these resolutions will pass at the upcoming NCLGA convention in Terrace, May 2-5, to then move on to the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM), the lobbying voice to the province for local governments across B.C.

CRD chair Al Richmond says the first resolution asks for relief for ranchers regarding dam safety regulation maintenance and inspection costs. The resolution was put forward by Area F (Horsefly-Likely-150 Mile House) Director Joan Sorley, noting she had heard while the cattle and hay ranchers understand these dams must be safe, they need to be able to share the cost.

In the past, the province looked after many of the dam safety inspections, but has since changed its policy to leave these often expensive, added costs up to the ranchers, including many throughout the Cariboo region, Richmond explains.

“Particularly when they need to have a dam inspector come, there is a significant cost to that,” Richmond says, adding this is a job the ranchers believe they can do themselves.

“There’s a huge concern about the onerous requirements on ranchers with respect to the looking after their dams, and these provide a general benefit in some cases [also] to the recreational value.”

That added value is because some of these dams keep lake levels higher, allowing for more recreational use, he notes.

“We are asking the province to find a way to work with agricultural dam owners to assist them in meeting some of the requirements of the new regulations they have in place.”

The CRD chair says another resolution approved asks for the province to repeal its requirement for a board of variance (formed of independent volunteers assigned by the regional directors or municipal council to deal with zoning bylaws) from the Local Government Act.

“We have not used them in a significant number of years, and it’s a requirement of the Act … we just want to eliminate having a board of variance and do it through the development variance permit process, and its terms of use.”

He adds the third resolution is one its area directors have been working on for some time – it asks the NCLGA directors to approve its request to lobby for a ministry review of BC Hydro’s option to avoid paying property tax, unlike other businesses in British Columbia.

The current policy allows the Crown corporation to give grants-in-lieu rather than property tax payments to local governments inside municipal boundaries –and none at those outside of town limits.

“[Unlike inside the municipalities], in rural areas BC Hydo pays no compensation for all those lines and infrastructure they have, and we would like to have some compensation so that we are not again having to [impact] us all in the property based taxation.

100 Mile House Free Press