Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance

Here’s what’s new from the Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance:

On June 24, a socially-distanced group of 35 – and others who joined in a Facebook livestream, learned about the experience of Aaron Sumexhelta. He’s a councillor with the Lower Nicola Indian Band and a lawyer who successfully prevented biosolids processing in Merritt. The PWPA organized the indoor / outdoor meeting at Peachland’s little schoolhouse  to “initiate a community-driven conversation” about the proposal from Brenda Renewables. (You can read about that here.)

I asked the PWPA’s Taryn Skalbania – how did the evening go?

Very well, she said in an email:

“Aaron is a great speaker, we just opened up conversation and dialogue and reminded residents that again the province is dictating what happens in our watershed without any input from us,  and VERY little even to council.”

She said councillor Terry Condon was in attendance, and it’s hoped that the Healthy Watersheds group, which is a committee of council, will be able to hear more from Brenda Renewables, the company behind the project. The PWPA wants in on any future meetings, too.

Skalbania said they had a videographer recording the meeting, and that will be posted soon on the PWPA’s website and Facebook page.

 

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Here’s a press release sent before the presentation, from the PWPA:

At its May 25, 2021 Council Meeting, the District of Peachland Mayor and Council must have felt a strong sense of déjà vu.  They were presented with a proposal yet again for the disposal of “bio solids” (sewage treatment plant sludge containing among other things human feces) in Peachland’s watershed.

A similar proposal was brought forward in 2013 and ultimately rejected by Interior Health (IH) who were not convinced Peachland’s drinking water would be unaffected.

Now, the twist in 2021 is that the proponents want to construct a processing facility there, to render the poop slurry into compost first, then spread it on the land around the mine site.

This may be a good idea, or it may be a crappy one. The Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance (PWPA) is intent on finding out. Since the proponents have provided nothing more than glowing statements of assurance that our drinking water will not be contaminated or polluted, we just don’t know.

In the absence of facts, data, and research to prove the proponent’s assertion that our water and water source are safe from leachate and contamination, are the residents of Peachland expected to just trust the fancy PowerPoint presentations?

PWPA believes Peachland needs more information, including research reports, submissions to the government with respect to environmental licenses, and meaningful community consultation about what exactly is proposed, what are the risks to the drinking water supply, and how those risks will be mitigated.

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The PWPA hosted a tree planting party on Saturday, May 21 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Native Ponderosa Pine seedlings were provided by the PWPA .

A few facts about Ponderosas: They secure shade, hold soil, provide homes for local birds and insects – and they can live to be 400 years old!

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Dozens of volunteers cleaned up cars, bullet casings and all kinds of junk up in the woods above Peachland. On May 8, The PWPA, the Peachland Sportsmen’s Association, the District of Peachland, Westbank First Nation, the RDCO and others participated in a big community cleanup. Here’s some of what they found:

 

 

 

Here’s a bit from the press release:

A continual problem throughout the Okanagan, illegal dumping is especially frustrating for Peachland because the creeks in the ravines that illicit dumpers prefer for disposing of their vehicles and junk, are the source of the community’s drinking water. Gasoline, motor oil, and other hazardous materials leaking from dumped vehicles and other trash can easily end up in the water supply.

 

“Despite this area being designated as a community watershed, the area is outside the jurisdiction of the District of Peachland. The result is little can be done to prevent illegal dumping or to catch the offenders,” says Jack Gerow , PWPA Chair.

“A community cleanup can mobilize a significant number of motivated volunteers who can get a lot done in a short amount of time. It’s not the best solution, but for now it’s all we have available to protect our watershed. A big shout-out goes to all the volunteers who gave their time to this worthwhile effort.”

By the end of the day, volunteers, with help from by BC Conservation Officer Service, GFL Waste, Tolko, and ACE Recycling, collected 8.3 tonnes of scrap metal in the form of abandoned vehicles, and filled a 40 cu. yd. dumpster. It may sound like a lot of trash was collected, but sadly the volunteers located more dumped vehicles and garbage than the containers could hold. PWPA, along with Kane Blake of OFTF and Andre Bohemier of ABC Recycling are planning a fall cleanup with all our community partners to continue the efforts to clean up the watershed.

 

 

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With more than 30 years’ experience in the forestry industry, Herb Hammond had lots to share on Earth Day, April 22. He’s a registered professional forester and ecologist and on Zoom, he spoke about Peachland’s watershed – and its decline.

 

 

 

 

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The demonstration, just getting underway March 19.

Socially-distanced supporters of all ages waved, beat drums and walked with signs during Peachland’s Forest March. A few words from PWPA communications chairperson Alex Morrison, on the March 19 walk to demand more equal and sustainable forestry management in BC:

“Peachland’s fresh water supply is under threat by numerous industrial activities including clear-cut logging in the watershed. And with spring floods on Okanagan lake becoming a regular event as a result of these logging practices, PWPA is demonstrating to our provincial government that they are failing Peachland and other similar communities across BC,” Morrison says. A total of 29 communities took part in the event, whether it was a walk, or virtually.

March 19 is considered a day of action where people across the province will unite in support of reforming BC’s forestry legislation. The province-wide action is intended to show solidarity across communities who are demanding for equitable and sustainable forest management in BC.  

Forest March BC in its third year, is the movement responsible for coordinating this effort across BC. “Our goal is to unite communities across BC to push for equitable, nature-based, and community-first approaches to forestry management with a primary goal of driving long-term sustainable value for both communities and the land,” says Forest March BC spokesperson Hania Peper.

 

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The PWPA Board of Directors wrote this March 8 in response to a recent media release from the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB).

It seems to suggest that the OBWB has lost confidence in the ‘control nature’ worldview and is now advocating a ‘work with nature’ worldview in the floodplain of the Okanagan Valley.

The video accompanying their media release also appears to say the traditional engineering solution of constraining meandering streams into straight channels is no longer working.

This change in direction is also needed for “managing” forests in the watersheds of the Valley, to help control flooding, especially in this time climate change.

Yet, there is not a word in OBWB’s statement, about the hydrological effects of clear-cut logging in the higher Okanagan snow zone.  More frequent, longer, and more severe flooding, extreme run-off, boil water advisories and ensuing droughts have all been attributed to clear-cuts.

Registered Professional Forester (RPF) and ecologist, Herb Hammond who has studied Peachland’s watershed extensively, says that preserving the forest-cover of Okanagan watersheds is integral to mitigating spring floods. “It’s even more critical, in those kinds of watersheds, to maintain cover to maintain late season flow, otherwise you go from spring floods to fall droughts and that’s becoming an increasing occurrence” says Hammond.

By neglecting to identify the role of clear-cut logging in watersheds, the OBWB is asking the Government of BC to remedy only the symptoms of poor ecological management. They are not demanding ways to tackle the root causes of flooding in the Okanagan Valley. Climate change will make things worse but lowering lake levels is just a band-aid for the larger issue.  If the OBWB is sincere in requesting a review of how the Ministry of Forests Lands Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development manages Okanagan lake levels, they should start by addressing the volume of clear-cut logging operations permitted throughout the basin.

PWPA believes it’s time the OBWB champions source water protection in a meaningful way. There is no such thing as sustainable clear cut logging in a community watershed. This is why Vancouver and Victoria have worked to keep their watersheds protected against all industrial activities.

-Board of Directors, The Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance.

 

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The PWPA recently announced one of its own has been appointed to the District of Peachland’s Healthy Watersheds Committee (HWC). Here’s a press release from PWPA communications chair Alex Morrison:

“Taryn brings deep subject matter knowledge to the HWC. Her connections to the grassroots watershed protection community in BC, coupled with experience working with logging licensees, Indigenous communities and provincial government representatives, make her the clear choice to represent PWPA as an advocate for Peachland’s watershed.

The HWC mission is to provide advice and support to Council and staff on matters affecting the water quality and quantity in the Peachland Creek and Trepanier Creek watersheds. It is an important mandate, as Peachland watersheds are recognized across in the Okanagan Valley and beyond as being highly impacted by industrial and commercial activities such as clear-cut logging, mining, and range cattle. PWPA welcomes the District’s initiative in striking this committee. PWPA values its new role as an advisor and supporter of the District’s water protection mandate.

“I am honoured to represent PWPA at our District’s watershed table,” says Taryn Skalbania. ”As a grass roots organization, our momentum comes from the people in our community. Now with our participation on the HWC, the voice of the District of Peachland will be amplified by the additional support of our members and provincial networks in protecting our watersheds.”

“Our watershed is a life-sustaining foundation for this community,” says Jack Gerow, PWPA Chair. “Without safe and sufficient water there would be no Peachland. But it’s not just water quality that’s affected. It is also the amount of water available and the timing of the flow to replenish the reservoirs for drinking water, as well as irrigation for our orchards, vineyards and farms. An informed and active HWC is a vital component in the struggle to protect our watersheds.”

Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance (PWPA) is a non-profit grassroots community organization with a mission to protect Peachland’s watersheds. Organized in 2016 by a group of Peachland residents who were dismayed by the repeated boil water advisories, loss of forest habitat and recreational opportunities caused by extractive industries in the watershed. PWPA has grown as water impacts have increased, and the community bears the costs of mitigating the effects of industrial and commercial degradation of the land.”

 

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There was a scavenger hunt and there was bingo, but first there was the business of the PWPA’s annual AGM and it was a productive one. 2020 wasn’t the most active year, but all 21 attendees at the Jan 28 Zoom meeting agreed on the importance of keeping everyone engaged. Thanks to Alison Moore for running such a well-organized meeting. The 2021 budget was passed and members also voted in a new board of directors. Here they are!

Chairperson: Jack Gerow

Treasurer: Val McGillivray

Secretary: Virginia Schmidt

Other board members are Patricia Dunn, Lee Humphries, Alex Morrison, Taryn Skalbania, Dora Stewart and Cory Sutton.

 

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A couple upcoming events..

On Feb 25, Michelle Connolly, a scientist from Conservation North will host a free online presentation on mapping technology. What does this mean for the watershed? She has a background in communicating conservation policy, so it should be an informative session!

Did you know March 21 is the International Day of Forests? Stay tuned for more info on that. You can also check out the PWPA website or email peachlandwpa@gmail.com

 

A little more about the PWPA:

From clean-up activities and watershed field trips, educational opportunities and advocacy, the Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance is a volunteer-driven group concerned about logging, unregulated recreation activities and other threats to the environment that’s home to our drinking water. One of their aims is to bring more attention to the lack of influence smaller communities have over those activities in their surrounding watersheds.  

According to their website, the alliance “encourages the adaption of site sensitive, ecologically-based forestry practices in the public forests located in Peachland’s watersheds.”

There’s resources and other info on the PWPA website, or you can check them out on Facebook or Instagram

Related stories:

Peachland’s water treatment plant – a series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Written by Kristen Friesen

June 25, 2021

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