Federal help sought in local government bid to buy disbanded rail line.

A group of local governments, including Kelowna, have asked the Canadian Transportation Agency to determine the price.

With Monday’s deadline approaching to negotiate an agreement with CN Rail to purchase the disbanded rail line between Kelowna and Coldstream in the north Okanagan, a group of four Okanagan municipalities and two regional district say they have decided to move forward with acquisition through the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) discontinuance process.

That move comes despite Kelowna’s city manager saying earlier this week that the municipalities have “the essence of deal” with CN and all that is needed to be worked out are some details.

“Significant progress has been made in negotiations over the past several months, however there are still a few outstanding issues,” said Doug Gilchrist, divisional director for community planning and real estate for the City of Kelowna who has lead the negotiations on behalf of Kelowna, Lake Country, Coldstream and Vernon, as well as the regional districts of Central Okanagan and North Okanagan,.

“We have applied to the CTA for a non-binding net salvage value determination to assist in informing the agreements and to extend our negotiation timeline,” he said.

Under a non-binding net salvage value  the CTA will determine a market value estimate of the corridor (land and assets) to assist parties in the negotiation. Under this process, the NSV determination is not binding on the purchaser but it would be on CN.

Once the determination is made, the process can take several months to complete, said Gilchrist.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to preserve a continuous, regionally-significant corridor with the potential to provide long-term public benefits for the enhancement of the social, environmental and economic benefit of our residents,” he added.

Accrording to the city, funding options are still being explored, including partnerships, grants, municipal reserves or borrowing. Local governments are making every effort to minimize the current tax impact in the interest of securing a land asset that would be valued for generations.

Earlier this week, Kelowna MayorWalter Gray said the province has given the  municipalities “strong verbal commitment” that it will fund one-third of the purchase price based on the amount eh local governments says the rail corridor is worth.

The local government have jointly identified the value the rail line could have as a continuous multi-modal transportation corridor connecting all the communities.

The Inter-jurisdictional team is acting as a common voice for local governments to work collaboratively in achieving common goals for the mutual benefit of the valley’s residents.