Collaborative approach on watershed

Fraser Basin Council advising province on regulations roll out.

  • Oct. 7, 2015 10:00 a.m.

Columbia Shuswap Regional District often works with the non-profit Fraser Basin Council (FBC), which was formed in 1997 with a commitment to advance sustainability in B.C.

Current chair Colin Hansen addressed directors at the Sept. 17 board meeting in Salmon Arm, telling them  he was B.C.’s health minister in 2000 when E. coli in a water system in Walkerton, Ont. killed five people and made 2,500 extremely sick.

“We knew then we had to have something in place,” he said.

Hansen provided a brief overview of FBC, which covers more than 25 per cent of B.C.’s land mass, is home to 2.9 million people, has one of the world’s greatest salmon river systems and a history of 10,000 years of aboriginal settlement.

The watershed has faced unprecedented change in the last 200 years due to settlement and rapid growth, bringing with it four major areas of concern: declining fish stocks, water quality problems, sewage treatment issues and a lack of co-ordination and planning.

Hansen described Fraser Basin Council’s sustainability vision as “social well-being supported by a vibrant economy sustained by a healthy environment.”

And, in his one-and-a-half years as chair, Hansen says he has become intimately aware of the Fraser Basin Council’s finances.

“I am amazed at how much is done,” he said, noting revenue comes from federal, provincial and municipal, governments. “We spend a very small part of our funds on administration.”

Mike Simpson, senior regional manager Thompson region, described the structure of the non-profit group that works with all levels of government, First Nations, the private sector and community.

“So many of our agendas dovetail with your issues,” he said, noting FBC’s priorities are action on climate change and air quality, healthy watersheds and water resources and sustainable regions and communities.

Two of several watershed planning processes or initiatives currently underway in the province include the Shuswap Watershed Council and the Gardom Lake Management Plan.

Fraser Basin is also involved in fisheries and habitat work and regional trails strategies in several regional districts, including CSRD with the Shuswap Trail Alliance.

Area C director Paul Demenok thanked Hansen and Simpson.

“I really appreciate your coming and presenting the broader picture,” he said. “I like to work with Fraser Basin; they bring expertise to the table and I appreciate their guidance.”

Larry Morgan, Area F North Shuswap director echoed Demenok’s sentiments and pointed out the increasingly important relationship building with First Nations.

Salmon Arm director Chad Eliason expressed concern about the province’s soon-to-be introduced water act.

“I am afraid it could be more downloading that gets passed onto the taxpayer,” he said. “What is the plan for FBC going forward to help with interpreting the act and implementing strategies?”

Hansen reassured Eliason that FBC was brought in to consult with the province and is now helping give advice on how the regulations are rolled out.

Simpson explained Victoria is looking at a collaborative approach and Demenok added the B.C. government is relying on regions to bring their own approach.

“It’s up to us to decide how much we spend,” he says. “I haven’t seen anything on mandatory requirements.”

But Simpson was quick to point out that the drought of this year shows how important it is to manage the resource.