The residents of the Bella Coola Valley have spoken loud and clear in regards to whether or not they will support the CCRD’s efforts to become a diking authority, and the answer was a definitive no.
Two bylaws were passed in recent months paving the way towards the referendum. Bylaws 415 and 416, which would establish the Bella Coola Dike Service and authorize the borrowing of over one million dollars respectively, were passed earlier this year.
On May 25, residents were asked whether or not they supported these initiatives. Out of an estimated 1000 eligible voters, 458 turned out to cast their votes. 30 voted yes, and 428 voted no.
To be eligible to vote, you had to be over 18 years and a registered property owner or renter in the Bella Coola Valley. Nuxalk Nation members residing on IR#1 were unable to vote because they do not pay property taxes while living on reserve.
“It’s difficult to determine the percentage of voters who cast a ballot,” said Acting CAO Isabell Hadford. “The latest census figures from 2011 show that 1,067 people live in Areas C, D, and E of the Bella Coola Valley, however we don’t know how many of these people are of voting age and these figures may have changed since 2011. The number of valid votes cast was 458 and the CCRD is pleased that so many people took the time to vote.”
Taking on the airport dike was a controversial choice, and many residents expressed that they felt that private property should be afforded the same level of protection. However, the CCRD responded that the federal and provincial governments’ would only look at funding the airport dike as it provided a service to the entire community.
It was indicated at the public meeting held last April that both the federal and provincial governments’ would not be willing to consider future proposals from the Valley if the residents voted no on the referendum, but this has not been confirmed by the Coast Mountain News.
If the referendum had passed, the CCRD would have been responsible for the construction and maintenance costs of the airport dike, resulting in a tax hike of 30 percent. Depending on which area you live, this would have cost anywhere between $67 and $153 per year. If the CCRD had borrowed the million dollars, this would have taken taxpayers approximately 30 years to repay.
At present, there has been no indication on future plans from the CCRD. “The Regional District is very pleased to have had such a definite respond to the Airport Dike project referendum question,” said Hadford. “Next steps will be discussed at the June 13 Board meeting.”