SLIPP may not be sliding away, after all.
Environmentalists were concerned the Shuswap Lake Environmental Planning Process (SLIPP) would disappear beneath the waves of criticism and contention at the end of this final year of a three-year pilot project.
Concerns were heightened with the recent release of a draft water-quality report based on 2011 data that reveals the lake is deteriorating – particularly in Salmon Arm Bay.
At a SLIPP steering committee meeting held June 10 in Sicamous, members agreed in principle to recommend the Thompson-Nicola, Columbia Shuswap and North Okanagan Regional Districts continue to work together on water quality and safety issues in the Shuswap watershed in 2014 and beyond.
The project has faced criticism on several fronts over the past two years. Chief among them for the funding partners has been realizing concrete value for the dollars they’ve contributed, as well as who has has borne the larger share of the funding.
The steering committee’s recommendation is subject to the completion of a new governance model and detailed discussions on cost-sharing, funding approvals and a comprehensive work plan later this year.
“I am really happy to see an agreement in principle to move SLIPP, in some form, down the road,” says Paul Demenok, CSRD South Shuswap director and newly appointed steering committee chair. “We were unanimous in support of the program in terms of water quality, both monitoring and remediation.”
“I believe the water quality monitoring program, when completed, will give everyone a very good picture of the conditions and the sources of pollution into the lake,” he said, noting the information will form the basis of future plans and initiatives to remediate and improve water quality. “There have been detrimental changes to the water quality in Salmon Arm (Bay) due to a variety of factors.”
Demenok says data indicates agricultural effluent both from run-off and the Salmon River, the sewage treatment plant, the shallow depth of the bay and the lack of water circulation are factors.
“I think the people of Salmon Arm should be concerned for the long-term quality of Salmon Arm Bay,” he says. “The reason the water-quality monitoring is so important is the final results will enable us to very accurately pinpoint the sources of pollution in Salmon Arm and across the lake.”
Demenok encourages residents to attend educational open houses that will be held in August.
“It’s important that we educate the public about the good work SLIPP is doing,” he says. “it’s our drinking water reservoir and a fundamental pillar of economic well-being.”
Demenok describes SLIPP as an innovative initiative in which several partners can work together to effect change.
“The reason I accepted the chair is I want to get some things done,” he says, reiterating the fact SLIPP has no involvement with enforcement. “SLIPP has been unfairly criticized; let’s get over that and get some things done.”
While saluting the committee for continuing to support SLIPP, Shuswap Water Action Team (SWAT) president Ray Nadeau points to the Okanagan Basin Water Board that was formed 40 years ago to clean up the Okanagan watershed.
He says tremendous improvements have since been made in Okanagan water quality, but the board has issued a warning of new and very serious water threats from invasive species coming to both the Okanagan and Shuswap watersheds.
“I believe it’s an appropriate time for SLIPP to be remodelled into to a permanently funded Shuswap Watershed Board,” Nadeau says. “Previous surveys clearly showed the majority of the watershed public would be supportive.”