Health of Nechako Watershed Focus of Meeting
Prince George, B.C. – What used to be the Nechako Watershed Alliance is becoming the more formal Nechako Watershed Roundtable. No matter what the name, the goal is the same, to improve and protect the health of the watershed.
The roundtable is made up of interested representatives from a variety of organizations
and will be holding both a public information session this evening at UNBC, then huddling tomorrow for representatives to discuss the issues.
The Roundtable writes in a backgrounder that the Nechako watershed “is facing significant challenges, including impacts of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and salvage logging, climate change, and the diversion of water out of the Nechako watershed. Effective stewardship of the Nechako Watershed today is critical to all future generations”.
(at right, the Nechako watershed area outlined in red-image courtesy Fraser Basin Council)
A report issued in March of this year, outlined some of the concerns facing the watershed, including:
- the mountain pine beetle infestation which led to increased forestry activity,
- silt build up,
- loss of habitat for wildlife,
- loss of riparian habitat and
- above ideal water temperatures for salmon.
Steve Litke is with the Fraser Basin Council and worked on that initial report. He is also taking part in the Nechako Watershed Roundtable “there are a number of different things that could be undertaken from private land stewardship to stream bank restoration, re-vegetating some of the forests after the pine beetle, those sorts of things.”
One of the key issues is that Rio Tinto Alcan has control over the vast majority of the water flow in the Nechako but the company’s role has not yet been defined “We will have to explore that with them” says Litke “I understand they have a program to release cold water for salmon so that’s one thing they can do and we do want to talk about these issues with RTA and explore where there are some opportunities to collaborate. I don’t predetermine what those might be.”
Members of the roundtable include all levels of government, government agencies, First Nations, and the Integrated Watershed Research Group at UNBC. The only name missing from the list of current participants is that of Rio Tinto Alcan. RTA has been invited to take part in the inaugural meeting tomorrow, and company reps are expected to attend. “Restoring flows in the Nechako closer to normal regimes would go a long way to resolving some of the issues” says Litke, who adds the roundtable will work with those who have water licences in the watershed towards improving those flows.
Bringing together the various stakeholders may well create a more powerful voice for the watershed says Litke “There has been a consensus to date in terms of focus on improving the health of the Nechako, and I think that if there is that unified vision, I think that can help raise the profile on the issues. The mix of public education, political interaction, on the ground stewardship and long term planning has yet to be determined but all of those kinds of things are different kinds of mechanisms to affect change.”
The public session is set for 5:30-9 this evening in the Atrium at UNBC.