Regional pilot project lists successes

By: Korie Marshall

The McBride to Barriere Corridor Pilot will conclude on March 31st. An update on the province’s Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training website says the pilot program has met its original objectives, which include a strong foundation for regional investment and job creation; regional cooperation on economic development; and a better understanding of how the provincial government can best assist with regional economic development.

“The corridor pilot project was of great assistance in accelerating the approval process for the Cranberry Marsh Boardwalk and presently for the mountain bike park in Valemount,” says Silvio Gislimberti, Economic Development Officer for the Village of Valemount, in the news release. “Both projects play a key role in the economic development strategy for attracting visitors and relocating businesses and families to the Robson Region.”

The corridor, which includes the communities of Barriere, Clearwater, Valemount and McBride, was selected for the province’s Regional Economic Investment Pilot in 2012 because of the region’s “strong local leadership and focus on investment attraction.” The pilot was a key initiative of the BC Jobs Plan, launched by the provincial government in September 2011 as a strategy to grow the economy and create jobs.

A list of priorities for the communities within the corridor were identified at a forum in Valemount in January 2012. That spring, the ministry announced a list of three categories of projects to focus on – power, fibre and tourism.

Tourism

The Discover Robson Valley Region initiative was started as a marketing, investment and tourism strategy for the northern end of the corridor. A partnership between the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George, Valemount, McBride, Northern BC Tourism and Destination BC, the Discover RVR website was launched in November 2013.

A steering committee was also set up to look at the feasibility of implementing a geopark, which started as an idea for Wells Gray Park but has expanded to potentially include all the way to Mount Robson and McBride. Consultants were recently in Valemount and McBride, getting further input and sharing information before making a report to the steering committee, expected next month.

Valemount Glacier Destinations Resort was also identified as a priority for the region. The proponents of the development currently have an interim agreement in place, and the Master Plan was submitted to the province last week. If the Master Plan is approved, the proponents could enter into a development agreement with the province by the fall, and construction could begin as early as next spring.

The concept of a mountain bike corridor along the North Thompson River is also being explored. The Western Canada Mountain Bike Tourism Association is partnering with Northern BC Tourism, the ministry and community groups along the corridor to collaboratively market the area as a destination for mountain bike tourism.

Power

A big hope for the north end of the corridor was the development of more independent power producers and the installation of a transmission line and substation for McBride. BC Hydro’s 2013 deadline for conclusion of negotiations with two IPP’s in the McBride area (Holmes Hydro and ecoTECH Energy Group) was not met, but the government says BC Hydro is now pursuing opportunities for other run-of-river projects in the corridor. The news release says three IPP proponents, Sorgent.e, Snowshoe Power and Castle Creek, are proceeding with their projects, creating employment opportunities and attracting the potential for $100 million in investment to the region.

Fibre

The Bridges II project continues, and two project reports have been completed: a directory of value-added operations and a post and rail business feasibility assessment. The news release says Bridges II is now working with the region’s community forests, and three more initiatives are in progress with completion expected by May 2015.

The province says it will continue to work with the region on a project-by-project basis, building on the strong relationships established during the pilot.