What follows is an update on the horse problem as of late November, 2009:
Based on our surveys, discussions with the PIB, senior government, and RDOS staff, a clear division of responsibility has emerged between the RDOS and the PIB. The current plan is to build and maintain a fence on PIB land to exclude the horses from populated areas on the west side of Penticton. Click on the image to get a larger version of a map showing (very conceptually) where we believe a horse control fence should be located. The idea was to push the fence far to the west to keep it away from recreational users. As a complement to the fence, the PIB will develop and implement its own range management plan. We ran this past our lawyers this summer in order to assess the broad feasibility of our plan. It took them a while to get back to us and they voiced some concerns regarding right-of-way for the fence on Band land. We have since resolved these issues with the PIB.
The fence will require the establishment of a service area (a new tax for those who benefit) and voter assent. This process will take up to six months, so their will be no fence in 2009. We estimate the capital cost to be in the neighborhood of $200K and annual maintenance costs to be roughly $5K/year.
Until such a long-term solution is in place, the RDOS is developing a plan to create temporary feeding stations on PIB land. These stations will (a) help ensure some of the horses are fed and (b) keep the horses away from populated areas. The basic idea is to provide them with an incentive to stay away from the West Bench. The challenge at this point is finding water for the horses. My understanding, based on our discussions with numerous horse experts, is that hay-fed horses require water (naturally foraging horses tend to eat enough snow to satisfy their water requirements). As such, we cannot responsibly feed horses hay unless we can also secure an ice-free source of water. This has turned out to be a challenging problem, especially given our modest budget for this part of the plan. Please stand by for more information on the temporary feeding stations.