Peachland residents, syilx people, and water leaders are encouraged that the provincial government has acknowledged that many communities in B.C. face a water crisis made worse by a changing climate and increased land uses. Budget 2022 dedicates $30 million in much-needed funding to safeguard BC’s watersheds by supporting local and Indigenous governments and non-profits like Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance doing watershed work.
As the climate crisis continues, we are also pleased to see the government recognize the central role those resilient watersheds play in our lives by investing in much-needed floodplain mapping and outdated flood infrastructure, which will make our communities more resilient to future storms and floods.
These investments are part of the larger climate preparedness and adaptation strategy to help prepare British Columbians for the impacts of climate change. Along with the creation of the new Ministry of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship in Tuesday’s budget announcements are positive steps towards watershed security in BC
In 2021, the provincial government allocated economic stimulus funding to the Healthy Watersheds Initiative to restore threatened watersheds and wetlands so they are more resilient to climate change. The $30 million invested in Budget 2022 will allow this vital work to continue until a permanent Watersheds Security Fund can be put in place by Budget 2023.
Coree Tull is Co-Chair of the Watershed Security Coalition, a group of community water experts, farmers, Indigenous champions and local government representing 44 organisations and 255,000 British Columbians. Tull said, “we are thrilled that watershed security is being prioritised in communities with the important $30 million commitment. The Watershed Security Coalition has been calling to extend the highly successful Healthy Watershed Initiative, while the Watershed Security Fund is being developed.”
A poll commissioned by the Real Estate Foundation of BC and the University of Victoria’s POLIS Waters Sustainability Project, and conducted by McAllister Opinion Research, shows that 78% of British Columbians hold the view that BC needs to make major investments in watershed security to protect fresh water in this province.
“The 100% volunteer driven Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance is dedicated to ecosystem research and education, and encourages the adoption of site sensitive, ecologically based forestry practices in the public forests located in Peachland’s watersheds” according to PWPA communications director, Alex Morrison. “Our activities include area walk and talks with water, land and tree experts, watershed clean ups, water monitoring, tree planting, restoration work, and a speaker’s series. Communicating with all levels of governments is vital; we are thrilled to see the bridge funding in this budget, it will encourage provincial and municipals governments and community groups as we work together to preserve and protect Peachland’s watershed.”
“Climate change has been declared the greatest threat to global health by the World Health Organization. A United Nations report declared that environmental governance co-managed by Indigenous peoples is an effective way to safeguard nature,” said Cowichan Valley Region’s Medical Health Officer Dr. Shannon Waters of Stz’uminus First Nation.
“If we take care of our watersheds, they can take care of us. They need our focus and investment; after all, the ecosystem is our health system,” said Waters, a Cowichan Watershed Board member and contributor to the recently released Health Canada report, Health of Canadians in a Changing Climate.
Waters was part of an independent group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders who recently published a new strategic directions paper, BC Watershed Security Fund: A Collaborative Vision. The Sustainable Funding Working Group paper makes a number of recommendations for the development of the promised Watershed Security Fund, including that it be co-governed with Indigenous Nations.
Communities want to see a permanent and dedicated watershed fund that will support local efforts to strengthen resilience in a changing climate, and bring the province to the table as a meaningful partner.
The pic below is from the PWPA website.
She’s seen baby eagles perched in a nest, a fawn nestled on the forest floor, even a mountain goat – all through her 400mm lens.
Kari Beharrell is a self-taught photographer who has a simple answer when I ask her what she loves most about taking photos.
“I love animals,” she says.
“That’s how I got into wildlife photography. I talk to them when I’m taking their picture. That’s how they start looking at me, I think they like to listen.”
Thanks to countless hikes over the years, Kari has been able to find and photograph all sorts of animals. And now – mostly because of the encouragement of her daughters, she’s put together a calendar. It’s called Peachland Locals 2022 and every animal was photographed in Peachland, and all except one (the mountain goat) were pictures she took this year. 50% of the proceeds from the $25 calendar are going towards the Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance and their efforts.
“I figure I might as well try and support someone else – there’s so much going on with our watershed, and they need help,” says Kari.
I take a couple photos of Kari at the Gladstone trailhead, and as we head back to our cars, she mentions this calendar is kind of a baby step in establishing a bit of a business from her work.
“My daughter is always encouraging me to get out there, so this is my first step,” Kari says.
You can follow her on Instagram at @karileephotography, and her website is coming soon.
Do you want to purchase a calendar? Here’s the link.
What else is new?
Here’s a letter from the PWPA’s Taryn Skalbania:
NOTE – this was written shortly after the Nov 14-15 disaster. For the latest in road closures visit DriveBC
I have to ask BC’s Premier and all MLAs why we continue to clear cut our proven first line of defence against mudslides, floods and climate change? Will the already subsidized forestry industry pitch in for the collateral damages? Will the rock bottom stumpage we receive from clear cut salvage logging our crown forests pay for externalities?
All highways to Vancouver are closed. Coquihalla, and Fraser Canyon due to slides. Agassiz Highway 7 has two slides with cars trapped between the slides. The Hope Princeton highway now has a slide and a river across the road near the Hope Slide and there is a power outage in Hope to Eastgate in Manning Park. Hwy 1 west of Hope at Popkum and Bridal Falls has slides. Highway to Revelstoke is closed too! Merritt’s entire water system is going down and residents have been told to avoid using water.
Many areas of the province are already under evacuation orders and alerts, the saturation and atmospheric river continues.
Flooding in Abbotsford so bad that an emergency centre has been opened for evacuees. The Canada Task Force 1 that is sent to countries to help with earthquakes and such is being sent to the Agassiz slide to help.
You know it’s bad when they get sent in.
Peachland endured two massive slides near clear cut logging blocks in 2017 (and many minor ones in 2018), one was substantial enough to prompt the mayor call a state of emergency.
Yet we continue to clear cut and deforest at an alarming rate all our native, built in, free, proven, successful front-line methods of flood and mudslide controls, our forests. We have the science linking forest cover loss to increased hydrological events for some time now.
Maybe time to be more precautionary, climate change is here.
-Taryn Skalbania, Peachland.
The PWPA’s annual AGM is taking place Thursday, November 25 from 7 – 9 p.m. at the Little Schoolhouse on Brandon Lane. Guests and new members are welcome, as the previous year is reviewed, committees are formed and a new board is elected. There will also be a guest speaker – Thomas Martin is a BC Wildfire project manager and consultant. There will be a question and answer session, and you can enjoy some coffee and cookies! If you’d like more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (250) 767-6456.
Did you make it to the Haunted Pier this Halloween? PWPA volunteers did a great job making their section of pier as scary as possible!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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!
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.”