The provincial government has backed out of a controversial land exchange agreement with the Westbank First Nation involving land in the Rose Valley watershed.
Steve Thomson, the B.C. Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, said today the government has concluded that transfer of the reservoir, watershed, park lands, and some of the other Crown lands identified in the Rose Valley area would not be in the public interest.
In making his decision under the auspices of the Land Act, Thomson said he gave careful consideration to land transfer suitability, assessments and recommendations by ministry staff, and the direct feedback from many area residents and other stakeholders pertaining to the protection of the community watershed and Rose Valley Regional Park.
The lands in question were proposed in exchange for the commercial reserve lands required to construct the $41-million Westside Road Interchange along Highway 97.
As federal law requires the replacement of the reserve lands used for that project, Thomson said the ministry of transportation and infrastructure will continue to work with WFN to reach an alternate land exchange solution.
“As with all potential transfers, my ministry does a comprehensive review that considers the social, environmental and economic impacts. My decision that these parcels are not suitable was based on staff’s professional assessment,” Thomson said.
Ben Stewart, the Liberal MLA for Westside-Kelowna, called it “the right decision” to retain the watershed and park tenure as Crown land.