Letter: An open letter to West Fernie property owners

An open letter to West Fernie property owners regarding the proposed incorporation into the city of Fernie.

Please consider these quotes:

“Over the last number of years, residents, the Fernie Health Unit and the city of Fernie have raised concerns related to public health, the environment and property safety. These concerns can be traced, in part, to the lack of community sanitary sewer and storm water systems and inadequacies of the existing water utility.” – City of Fernie, 2014, Official Community Plan

“The only practical way to upgrade the servicing in this area would be to utilize servicing by the city of Fernie.” and, “West Fernie falls into the category of an area which will eventually require the extension of publicly owned water and sewer services.” – Elk Valley, 2014, Official Community Plan (Regional District of East Kootenay)

These quotes show clear cause for Wildsight to support the petition, as the first of our stated actions is, “We protect our ecological values, because these values ensure the long term viability of our communities.”

The new, upgraded water system is to be installed across the entire present service area right away, with the attendant tax increase to all the owners if the petition fails.

No one is happy to sign on for additional housing costs; but if you do, what follows? The elephant in the room due to: many non compliant septic systems, too densely situated, on lots too small, in a flood plain and with poor storm drainage, etc. will be gone once and for all. The health concerns, real or perceived, vanish. Storm drainage will be better, especially for flood prone properties; better fire protection and better roads. The installation and disruption with that happens only once.

The region, city and province want the full project to go ahead. Interior Health will not continue to overlook the current, inadequate, non-compliant state of private sewage treatment in West Fernie indefinitely, should the petition fail. At some point it will be mandated to come into compliance with the newer regulation for onsite sewage. (BC Reg.326/2004).

You are well advised to go to www.interiorhealth.ca and pull up “Onsite Sewage” and “Septic Systems”. Many of you will find you cannot comply and, if you can, will not like the stringent and costly requirements to come into and stay in compliance.

Is the avoidance of this event not worth the very reasonable cost of becoming part of the proposed public system? Just maybe, that is why the RDEK, as quoted above, concluded that the only practical way to upgrade the servicing is to utilize servicing by the city of Fernie and that this meant the extension of publicly owned water and sewer services.

Mr. Sosnowsky has obtained every conceivable grant to minimize the costs to the owners. The additional costs will be phased in over five years, commencing in 2017 for those in the first phase, and later, as each is completed, for the later phases. The financial implications for the later phases will remain the same as for the first. They will not proceed without the same level of financing. The only uncertainty is the timing.

Wildsight must conclude that the realistic and best way to address the situation, for both the environment and the residents, is to support the petition. Putting this difficult and sensitive issue to rest now is the best course. Otherwise it will not disappear or remain in limbo. The cost now, if accepted voluntarily, will be much less than if forced upon you later.


Respectfully submitted.

Elk Valley Branch, Wildsight