Few Island-specific projects unveiled in B.C. budget

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Anyone hoping for big promises for Vancouver Island in B.C.’s 2024 budget may be disappointed, but two key projects were allocated funding for the region.

The B.C. government has earmarked $14 million to replace the 50-year-old Cowichan Lake weir and $10 million to increase the water storage capacity by raising the Saint Mary Lake dam height for Salt Spring Island.

The Cowichan Lake weir project funding will be released in the 2023/2024 fiscal year to allow for more water storage in Cowichan Lake.

READ PREVIOUS: Pumps added to weir at Lake Cowichan as water level drop to historic lows

The lake is an “important source of drinking water” for the region, and the project will allow for better management of water flow for fish habitat in the Cowichan River. The project is taking place in partnership with the Cowichan Tribes.

The money for the Saint Mary Lake project is allocated in the 2024/2025 fiscal year. The project aims to increase water storage and better sustain the required water flow for the lake.

This project follows on concerns raised over years by Salt Spring residents about water availability. The island is often under water advisories and residents have long complained about water access not being enough to sustain the locals, let alone the large number of tourists seen by the island each year.

READ MORE: Five main takeaways from B.C.’s budget

Funding for transportation

BC Ferries and BC Transit each have been allocated millions to improve access on their services.

BC Ferries will receive $23 million over three years to account for the expected growth in student, senior and medical and accessibility fare discounts. The funding also aims to address rising fuel and maintenance costs.

BC Transit is set to receive $248 million over three years to expand infrastructure outside of the Lower Mainland.

This funding is expected to cover infrastructure to house more buses, new zero-emissions buses, and increase the capacity of depots and passenger facilities.

Additionally, it will receive $28 million to increase service across the province by 14.5 per cent or an additional 358,000 hours by the 2027/28 fiscal year in unspecified priority communities.

Victoria’s transit system recently announced plans to increase ridership fares in order to expand the number of hours it operates.

It is unclear if this funding will impact the plans to increase fares.

READ PREVIOUS: Victoria transit fares facing possible increase, company seeking feedback

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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