Regional District of Kootenay Boundary to manage Kettle River Watershed

The Kettle River Watershed Management Plan, led by the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB), will include public involvement that will shape the future of the watershed.
The plan will be a document that will guide decisions by different levels of government, resource managers and individuals about how to use and manage the Kettle River Watershed.
Graham Watt, project co-ordinator for RDKB, said the plan would look at everything from irrigation to land use planning to resource management.
“What we do on the land also affects the water and this is a way of looking at it holistically,” he said.
“When you’re doing a watershed plan, you look at all of the issues that effect people’s ability to use and enjoy water, so that might be the aquatic ecosystems, the fisheries, the amphibians that need water.”
In phase one, which started last year, Summit Environmental from Vernon conducted the ethical study that looked at the state of the watershed.
“What do we know and how is it doing,” Watt explained. “It’s an opportunity for us to start with a sound basis of knowledge because it tells us what we know and what we don’t know, and it gives us some really good guidelines for going in and understanding things better to make recommendations.”
The management plan is the second phase and will work to identify issues that affect water and the watershed, understanding those issues and developing recommendations to different levels of government.
The Kettle River has been considered one of the most endangered rivers for the past two years and Watt believes the status is also due to the risks that are possible in the future.
“There’s a number of issues and concerns that are on the top of the mind when thinking about the endangered river status in a couple of years,” he said.
“Certainly, a lot of people are concerned about the amount of water being used at parts of the watershed and we want to take a really careful look at how much water is there, how much water is available over time and how that changes within the year, and when are the constraints of water use.”
Watt noted that there are also other concerns about water quality, forestry and range use by cattle.
“If you live by water or live, play and work near water, there’s a chance that your activities could affect the ecosystems around the water, called riparian areas or wetlands,” Watt explained.
“Homeowners and land users can take steps to protect the area around the water by stepping back and not clearing down all the way to the lakeshore, or by providing watering sites for cattle away from streams.”
Assisting the management plan is the Stakeholder Advisory Group, which includes 30 representatives of communities, organizations and businesses from across the region.
Grace McGregor, chairperson for the Kettle River Stakeholder Advisory Group and RDKB Area C director, stated the stakeholder committee is representative of the whole region.
“We commissioned a study to bring all of the information on the Kettle River together so that we have one document to work from and so we can identify any gaps in the document,” she said. “When we sit down and talk about a management plan we’re not missing large chunks of information.”
McGregor believes that this study has been a long time coming and something that everyone is passionate about.
She would like to remind residents that the study and plan is not using taxation dollars.
“It’s important to realize that it’s gas-tax dollars and grants being used, so people don’t need to fear that their tax dollars are going into this,” McGregor said. “The province has done a lot of in-kind work and that’s really important.”
Down the road, McGregor hopes to see a marriage with the Kettle River’s Management Plan and the Christina Lake Watershed Plan.
Watt stated that the RDKB is looking at a two-year timeline.
“Over the next year we’ll be going over issues and developing goals and the next year we’ll be making recommendations,” he said. “There will be a lot of negotiations and public consultation that will happen, but there may be further studies required.”
Summit Environmental invites the public to a presentation of the “State of the Kettle River Watershed” at 7 p.m. on June 18 at the Midway Community Centre.
For information, visit kettleriver.ca or drop by the RDKB office located in Grand Forks.

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