Channel dredging issues drag on

Low water creating bigger issues that need federal government onboard.

The federal government’s foot dragging over dredging the Sicamous channel must come to an end.

Last weekend, the community once again had the privilege of hosting the annual Sicamous Antique and Classic Boat Show. As striking as the vintage vessels on display were, it was difficult not to notice how low the water is in the channel.

The reduced depth has resulted in a narrower navigable waterway. Subsequently, boats in the show had to be moved to allow other vessels to get by.

In this regard, the low water has made the channel a safety concern.

This was the fifth year for the boat show – a unique attraction that fits well with Sicamous’ nautical history. The channel is a crucial part of that history, which extends well back before European settlement, to when the area was home to the Splatsin and was known as a meeting place among the Secwepemc Nation, and the waters of the Shuswap served as their highways.

While the channel has obviously seen substantial change since then, it is still very much depended on by humans. Of course, it is also considered critical fish habitat for juvenile chinook, sockeye and coho salmon. Though current development on the channel hasn’t appeared to have changed this fact, and despite the channel having been dredged in the past (1981 is the last year on record any dredging was done), for the past 20-plus years the federal government, particularly Fisheries and Oceans, has been reluctant to allow further dredging.

The district has been struggling with the federal government about this for more than 30 years (https://sicamous.civicweb.net/Documents/DocumentList.aspx?ID=28287).

Current Mayor Terry Rysz says the Splatsin have offered some support in having the channel dredged, and  talks continue. No doubt these parties recognize the importance of protecting fish habitat, as well as the historical importance of the channel to human activity. This while appreciating the changes that have occurred and are occurring that have resulted in this year’s rapid drop in water levels throughout the Shuswap (http://www.shuswaplakewatch.com/today.php). With the channel being the federal government’s jurisdiction, it’s crucial they too take part in this discussion, ideally with an understanding that protecting/preserving human activity and fish habitat in the channel need not be mutually exclusive.