Fall 2017 Member Meeting Summary

Agenda (Click to download Fall2017_Agenda)

On September 23, CBWN hosted a members’ meeting and workshop in Nelson, with about 40 people attending. Representatives from watershed stewardship groups from all over the Columbia River Basin came together to share their experiences and projects and to hear from water management and legal experts.

Tara Clapp started off the day with opening remarks and a summary of the membership survey. One fairly consistent concern that came out of the survey was that many groups have considerable difficultly obtaining and maintaining consistent funding.

The group then heard from Kelly Vodden and Vincent Chiref from Memorial University in Newfoundland and Labrador. They outlined some of the challenges in maintaining proper drinking water systems in that province. Although the landscape is dotted with “ponds” not all of the water systems are safe and some areas actually experience shortages. They also talked about some of the difficulties they had experienced while trying to establish collaborative mechanisms due to a lack of response from a good many players.

Group updates then followed with a mix of success stories, significant challenges and some works in progress. While some groups told stories about successful collaboration with industry, others related tales about on-going battles with the logging industry and BCTS. For example, Salmo Watershed Streamkeepers Society managed to list a number of projects they have undertaken with considerable cooperation from industry and local government, while just down the road in Ymir, they outlined their struggle with BCTS to prevent logging right up to their tiny, fragile watershed.

Other concerns raised by the group included recreation use of watersheds and wetlands and the damage that can be caused by all terrain vehicles, snowmobiles and motorcycles. The Lake Windemere group has created a “winter code of ethics” program that, while not strictly enforceable, should help bring attention to the issue in their area. Some groups expressed concern about other industrial uses such as water bottling (Blewett) and the potential sale of a wetland and beach area at the Kokanee Springs Golf course.

Just after lunch, Andrew Gage, West Coast Environmental Law spoke to the group remotely about the legal avenues to protect watersheds. Andrew informed everyone that the legislation is highly biased towards logging and the legal remedies are not sufficient to provide for watershed protection, for the most part. He did indicate that some legal minds are looking at new approaches that may be more successful.

Tara also led a presentation and discussion about the regulatory approach called “professional reliance” in British Columbia. Over the past decade, most environmental regulations in British Columbia require that the Crown rely on the opinion of qualified professionals that are hired by the proponents in an action, especially where decisions are complex. Haddock (2017) identified six major issues raised by this approach, including that the values-based decisions such as the relative acceptability of risk are being made by professionals hired to work for industry. The new government has announced that it will undertake a review of professional reliance across regulations.

If you have questions or concerns, or would like the full Meeting Notes, please contact cbwn.coordinator@gmail.com.