The Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Alliance was a novel and well-received idea when it was proposed back in 2012 and received funding the following fiscal year.
It was promoted on the basis that it would not cost Salt Spring property owners much money — about $10 a year for the average assessed residential property — and it would fill a glaring gap in coordination of activities that would lead to protection of freshwater resources in the long run.
Despite the fact that the tax requisition is only $98,500, compared to a total Trust area budget of more than $7 million, last year islanders told the Trust that they wanted to be specifically consulted about the SSIWPA tax and not just the overall Trust budget.
That a service of such minor scope and cost has attracted so much public attention might be surprising, but it’s not. Water is among a handful of consistently major island issues and expectations for SSIWPA were high.
Perhaps because the concept and function were new, the organization seemed to take a long time to get its sea legs, and last fall its credibility was impacted when the island’s largest water utility, the North Salt Spring Waterworks District, decided to withdraw from the steering committee.
However, remaining participants feel that without SSIWPA, other grants and government funding and staff time would not have come our way, and that after five years in existence, progress is being made on a number of fronts.
Armed with feedback from a Saturday public meeting and other sources, Salt Spring’s Local Trust Committee was poised to make a decision on Tuesday about continuing to fund SSIWPA. Based on comments from committee members Peter Grove, Laura Patrick and Peter Luckham at the meeting, it is clear that the recommendation would be to continue providing taxpayer support for SSIWPA. However, they also heard suggestions that an organization that is limited to only coordination activities is not as useful as one that can actually “do something,” and that partnering with the Capital Regional District or otherwise amending what is actually being coordinated should be investigated.
Kudos to the Trust for holding the special meeting and being open to improving a concept and a body that has value for Salt Spring Island.