Council offers $310,000 for sturgeon

As major players negotiate for recovery centre funding, Vanderhoof offers funds, land and tax exmptions.

Council approved a resolution Tuesday, Feb. 12, further galvanizing the construction of a Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Centre in Vanderhoof.

As the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C. (FFSBC) moves forward with negotiations to build the $3.5-million recovery centre here, the resolution lays out various financial offerings from the District of Vanderhoof.

Included in the resolution is a one-time donation of $310,000, plus two acres of municipal-owned land, a waiver of all building permit fees, and a permissive tax exemption for the building and property for as long as the facility is operated by FFSBC.

“Basically, we’re all in. We have put our cards out there,” said Councillor Ken Young.

The value of the land, waived permit fees and tax exemptions have not been officially determined by the municipality.

“The donation of the land is an important dimension,” said Deputy Administrator Tom Clement.

“The key is the $310,00 as a donation towards the construction and operation of the facility.”

Urgency is rising to build the facility before the Nechako white sturgeon, currently listed as “critically imperiled” by the B.C. Conservation Data Centre, declines any further in number.

According to the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative, dam construction, loss of food supply and pollution from industrial and municipal sources have endangered the Nechako white sturgeon by reducing their reproductive success and possibly degrading their habitat.

The initiative to build the recovery facility largely depends on $4 million of funding in the Nechako Environmental Enhancement Fund (NEEF).

To access the money, however, an in-kind contribution of an additional $4-million is required by the NEEF Management Committee.

So far, the FFSBC has banked more than $3 million in contributions from Rio Tinto Alcan (RTA) and the provincial government.

Factoring in financial considerations from the district, more than $7 million of cash and commitments is available for investing into the recovery facility, according to Don Peterson, president of the FFSBC.

“We’re probably at the 90-per cent level now,” said Peterson, referring to the amount of resources and support now in place.

Although optimistic, Peterson is unable to comment on ongoing negotiations between the FFSBC, RTA, the provincial government, the District of Vanderhoof and the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative, but he expects a final decision to be announced “well in advance” of the B.C. general election in May 2013.

“We’re very close,” he said.

“We just need the cooperation from some of our partners now.”