Kettle River Watershed Management Plan project coordinator Graham Watt reviews data on water demand vs. supply during a public open house on the draft plan in Greenwood last week.
Work is on track for the first watershed management plan for the Kettle River to be released this September.
To help that happen, two open house meetings were held on June 24 at McArthur Centre in Greenwood to give the public a final chance for input into the draft Kettle River Watershed Management Plan.
The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary has been working since 2010 toward the development of a plan specific to the Boundary. A State of the Watershed report was released in November 2012 that gathered all known data and informed the work on the plan.
It found generally that there is lots of water in the spring and not enough water in the fall, and that the level of use can impact flows during drought years.
“Generally the water quality is good,” watershed management plan coordinator Graham Watt told the meeting. “There is concern that in the summertime it is too warm for fish and in the spring fish stocks are impacted by high sediment levels. You wouldn’t want to drink river water in the springtime.”
The Stakeholder Advisory Group has been working on the draft watershed plan since 2012 with the goal of protecting fish and aquatic ecosystems, improving the quality and reliability of water supplies, and increasing the communities’ capacity as water stewards.
“We are sharing the draft with the public now to get some feedback before we finalize the draft plan and circulate it to stakeholders for review this summer. After hearing the feedback, we aim to finalize and launch the plan in September.”
Of the 11 people who attended the afternoon session, only two were not already directly involved with the plan. Several members of the steering committee and stakeholder advisory group were on hand, as was Donna Dean from the RDKB planning department. American Lorna Johnson came representing the Kettle River Advisory Board, which advises both Ferry and Stevens counties in Washington State.
“Three-quarters of the Kettle River watershed is in Canada,” Watt explained, adding, “A good portion of that is public land with lots of resource management activities.”
Once the report is released in September, the work will transition into the implementation phase. Watt explained that core funding is in place for coordination and implementation going into 2017.
“We want change to happen here because we have some challenges,” Watt said. Local government has a role to play in land use planning, environmental protection, and other areas; but the plan also depends on higher levels of government, industry and individuals.
Watt suggested that both local governments and residents could use the plan to inform lobbying efforts directed at the province for policy changes and funding. He said policy and regulations are not always consistent nor well enforced. “Right now the B.C. government has brought in the Water Sustainability Act and regulations to carry it out. So we really want them to make sure they are fixing some of those problems.”
He said in the fall an implementation team composed of many of the same people that have been around the table for the past two years, plus additional members of the public and organizations who express an interest, will take charge of the actions that are within their areas of interest— with different working groups working to help coordinate action on areas identified in the plan and looking for funding to do that work.
Midway resident Gladys Brown argued that pesticide use should not be allowed in the watershed. “It is just a matter of when it will get into our drinking water,” Brown said. “When are we going to learn? We have plenty of cancer without inviting more!”
Watt assured her the issue had been identified through the 2012 public survey and had been the subject of discussion by the advisory group. He said actions identified included monitoring groundwater quality and efforts to encourage landowners to reduce their use of pesticides. “But a lot of it is out of our control and requires provincial regulation,” he added.
Other issues raised during the afternoon meeting included a program to educate school-age children about wise water use; a concern that the plan to date makes little mention of backcountry users, recreation and “high country abusers”: that there needs to be serious discussion about enforcement of regulations, and that the value of cultural and recreational aspects also find a place in the final document.
In the evening session, two residents of Jewel Lake spoke about some of the issues they are experiencing: speeding boats on the 8-km/h lake, shoreline erosion, and ecosystem damage.
Watt also discussed opportunities for lake residents to learn about invasive aquatic species education and monitoring with the Boundary Invasive Species Society. “The program to educate boaters and recreationists to clean, drain and dry their equipment will help protect our lakes and rivers,” Watt said.
The public can follow the development of the Kettle River Management Plan online at kettleriver.ca.