Artist’s conception of the fixed link at the Galena Bay ferry crossing site. A bridge would enhance the region’s economy in many ways, say proponents.

Artist’s conception of the fixed link at the Galena Bay ferry crossing site. A bridge would enhance the region’s economy in many ways, say proponents.

Group pushing for fixed link across Arrow Lakes

A new report and government have a local lobby group pushing for a bridge across Arrow Lakes.

NAKUSP — A new report and a new government have a local lobby group renewing its push for a bridge across the Arrow Lakes north of Nakusp.

The president of the Beaton Arm Crossing Association says he would like Nakusp village council to help them lobby for the fixed link across the lake.

“We want council to join us in meeting with the two MLAs, Katrine Conroy (Kootenay West) and Michelle Mungall (Nelson-Creston) to discuss getting rid of the ferry and putting in a fixed link at that north end,” Earl Frerichs told councillors at their meeting last week.

The request for a meeting with local MLAs comes on the heels of a new report issued last June, that outlines the problems with the region’s anaemic transportation links.

The Shipping and Logistics Report, commissioned by the Columbia Basin Trust, says that while the area’s transportation links don’t unduly restrict business’ ability to scale growth, “businesses with low value and/or heavy products are likely to face challenges in accessing distant markets competitively.”

That means there’s a problem for our logging industry, Frerichs told council.

The study also shows the Nakusp-Kaslo area has some of the longest wait times for transportation links in the province. In this era of e-commerce, consumers expect better, faster and cheaper supply of goods and services than the area’s links can now provide. That’s hampered both business development and population growth, Frerichs maintains.

While the study surveyed transportation issues across the Columbia Basin, Frerichs noted more than a third of the respondents came from the Nakusp-Kaslo-Slocan Valley region.

“There’s information in there that really says there’s an issue with transportation here,” said Frerichs. “Those areas are suffering from transportation problems, and they’re suffering from no growth. And that report tells you that.”

Past studies have shown that replacing the ferry service with a bridge could cost about $462 million, a figure Frerichs says his group is trying to find ways of reducing. Still, the benefits would also be substantial, including increasing local employment by 56 per cent, increasing the government’s tax revenues from the region by $29 million annually, promoting jobs in other areas like Nelson and Castlegar, and increasing land values in the Upper Arrow Lakes by as much as 33 per cent. BACA also points out the Columbia Basin Agreement brings nearly $700 million annually to the government’s coffers.

Promises of fixed-link crossings and new roads to the south have come and gone over the decades, but Frerichs says with a new NDP government, including two local MLAs in cabinet, the time has come to make a pitch for the fixed-link again.

“We can only hope,” he says. “Bear in mind it was the NDP that got the Columbia Basin Trust. This could be the next good step for them, to get the fixed link in.”

Council accepted BACA’s presentation as information but didn’t commit to taking part in the lobbying effort.


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