The District of Kitimat has given the go-ahead for the allocation of $16,000 towards the study of bears currently being undertaken for the proposed Minette Bay West development.
Environmental consultants Silverwood Consulting in their 2016 Bio-Inventory report presented to council recommended that the District undertake a bear study in spring of 2017, before preparing a final concept plan for Minette Bay West.
The team, which is expected to have a report before council in June, is conducting a study of bear seasonal habitat use and suitability in the proposed development area.
District planner Ryan Beaudry said the study was divided into two stages – stage one included a desktop exercise to assess bear seasonal habitat suitability in Minette Bay West and the surrounding area, and stage two a preliminary assessment of human/bear conflict risks.
The results of the current phase of the study, which will include a detailed site survey and field assessment, will be taken into consideration ahead of the final concept plan.
The motion to approve budget for the study was discussed at a council meeting on May 1, which was also attended by a number of concerned citizens, including Bill Kearley and Minette Bay Lodge owner Howard Mills.
Kearley said the District should rather be focusing on improving Radley Park and shoring up the crumbling river bank than developing Minette Bay.
“Some effort should be put there, which will benefit tourism far greater than having a park at Minette Bay,” said Kearley.
“I think it’s more important that we look after the tourists and give them a place to stay. Minette Bay West won’t be used by tourists the same as the campground would be.”
Kearley said that fishing was “pretty much what Kitimat has now – not much of anything else”.
Mills again lodged his objections to the proposed
development at Minette Bay, saying he and other concerned Kitimat residents would go on campaigning to have the development stopped.
“It’s a far larger project than Hirsch Creek and Radley Park put together. It will be an ongoing expense,” said Mills. “It’s a huge amount of money and it will not be looked after.”
Mills also repeated previous concerns about potential interactions between bears and people.
Kitimat mayor Phil Germuth took the opportunity to point out that Mills had previously stated that the area bosted “pedestrian-friendly grounds with kilometres of jogging” in a proposal for the Pine Hamlet development Mills had put before Council years ago.
“We’re doing something way less than that, yet it was OK for you to do it. Now that we’re trying to do it, it’s a disaster waiting to happen,” said Germuth.
Mills pointed out that the Pine Hamlet would have happened on private land, whereas Minette Bay West would be on municipal property.
“Grizzly bears don’t know the difference between property lines,” replied Germuth.
Councilor Rob Goffinet supported the proposal, saying there is a need for a proper bear study, that it’s part of the process leading to a point where council would eventually decide whether to go ahead with the development.
“There is a need to execute a finely-honed bear study focused on this property,” said Goffinet. “We are agreed that is a concern and we want to make the right decision on real, objective scientific information.”
“In the future we have to make a decision, but it’s not over yet.”