The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District is to receive $1.84 million in federal Gas Tax funding for nine major projects from Furry Creek to Lillooet.
This includes $80,000 for Cheakamus River Environmental Monitoring requested on behalf of the RMOW, $160,000 for the Sea to Sky Trail at Wedgewoods, SLRD Area C and the RMOW, and the highest single amount, $418,000, going into work on the Corridor Trail for the District of Squamish.
Whistler's Water System Cross Connection Control project, requested on behalf of the RMOW, will receive $178,000. It is intended to safeguard drinking water from potential contamination and subsequent health risks by isolating private water systems from the public water system through the installation of backflow prevention devices.
Other projects include $369,000 for the Friendship Trail and multi-use suspension bridge for SLRD Area C, the Village of Pemberton and Mount Currie; $49,000 for Furry Creek Well Upgrades in SLRD Area D; $45,000 for Gold Bridge Well Upgrades in SLRD Area A; $300,000 for a wastewater treatment plant upgrade in the District of Lillooet; and $241,362 for the Town Creek Storm Drainage Project in the District of Lillooet.
The Gas Tax Fund is made available by the federal government and supports environmentally sustainable municipal infrastructure projects such as green energy, public transit, water and wastewater infrastructure work and local roadwork. The fund was committed to by the Liberal government of Paul Martin and implemented by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. The Union of British Columbia Municipalities administers the Gas Tax Fund in B.C.
A portion of the region's entitlement to federal gas tax fund monies, a total of $1.89 million, was available to be spent on projects of the SLRD's choosing in 2012, so long as they fit within the Gas Tax Fund aim of reducing greenhouse gases. Ten projects were identified; one in Lillooet, did not get approval.
In a release, the SLRD called the nine successful plans "regionally significant projects, which are defined as projects that lead to 'reduced greenhouse gas emissions, cleaner air or cleaner water' as well as being large in scale or regional in impact."
The final list of projects to pursue was determined by the collaborative efforts of the SLRD and its four member municipalities: the District of Lillooet, the District of Squamish, the Village of Pemberton and the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
SLRD chair Susie Gimse complimented the work done by Lynda Flynn, the SLRD chief administrative officer, and her peers in the various communities. Gimse also commended the federal government "for agreeing to provide it to local government."
"It's fabulous news... the success of this application does speak to the collaborative approach they took in reaching an agreement of how to apply for the various projects," Gimse said in an interview. "(The Gax Tax Fund) agreement comes to an end in 2014 and it is really critical for everyone to be aware that we need to see it continue."
Whistler's mayor, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, said although the federal government has legislated $2 billion annually into the Gas Tax Fund for projects across the country, the SLRD region has not received funding every year. The last time it was successful was 2008.
"We came up this year with a list of projects that all of the communities in the SLRD agreed upon... that was all a good thing," she said.
"The three projects that Whistler wanted did receive full funding... There was quite a negotiation among the member communities of the SLRD and we took into account building relationships, community needs, economic development potential, so there was a lot of thought given to the projects we applied for funding for. I am pleased we received funding for nine out of 10 projects."
Wilhelm-Morden could not say exactly when the work would start, but the trail building would likely take place in 2013, after the coming winter. The funding into monitoring of the Cheakamus River would support an already-established project.