Okanagan watersheds protection plans aim to reduce wildfire risks

Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. provides over $660,000 in funding for watersheds enhancements

Funding is coming to improve Okanagan watersheds and to mitigate the risk of wildfires.

Four water purveyors in the Okanagan are proactively working together with Frontline Operations Group Ltd. (FLO) to utilize the $663,910 in funding granted by the Forest Enhancement Society (FESBC), to find long term solutions to protect watersheds in the Okanagan Basin.

“We are incredibly grateful to FESBC for funding these projects as they may not have happened otherwise,” said John Davies, wildfire management specialist with FLO.

“Although these are separate watershed projects in the Okanagan, all work is collaborative because they are adjacent to one another and wildfires know no boundaries. Our immediate focus is to prescribe treatment operations to address the wildfire risk around critical areas within the watersheds.”

READ MORE: Shared Okanagan watershed highlighted in film premiere

The areas of focus will be:

  • District of Lake Country, Oyama and Vernon Creek Watersheds—receiving $142,860

  • Regional District North Okanagan, Duteau Watershed—receiving $146,235
  • Glenmore-Ellison Improvement District, Kelowna Community Watershed—receiving $140,910
  • Black Mountain Irrigation District, Mission Creek Watershed—receiving $233,905

Improvements will be on infrastructure associated with water intake, treatment facilities and communication towers essential to safe operations of the watersheds.

A public consultation is in the works to gain community feedback and answer questions.

“These forest fire risk reduction projects for the Okanagan Basin watersheds take careful planning, collaboration and strategy,” said Dave Conly, operations manager with FESBC.

“Once completed, treated areas will reduce fire behaviour and severity as well as provide important fire protection control points near critical water management infrastructure, and in some areas, the treatments will act as fuel breaks to impede the spread of fire.”

“These projects are proactive and collaborative, two features we like to see when assessing projects to fund and we look forward to seeing the results of this good work.”

READ MORE: Kelowna adapting to larger Okanagan watershed management role

In collaboration with local government, First Nation, and key stakeholders the watershed improvement strategy aims to assess high-risk areas for wildfire behaviour, locations where landscape level fuel breaks can be constructed to interrupt the progress of a wildfire, and cultural and ecological values within the watershed.

READ MORE: Discussion to examine Peachland’s watershed

“Reducing the effects from wildfire on our watersheds and our communities is one of the most important things we can do,” said Pam Shumka with the Ministry of Forests.

“Our Natural Resource District is very pleased to partner and collaborate with the water purveyors, First Nations, FESBC, and FLO on these projects.”

FESBC said when the four purveyor applications are approved, they will mirror successful strategies used in other communities to improve the quality and quantity of the watershed.

“We now look forward to having the community learn more about these critical projects in their area,” said Conly. “And ultimately, to have these projects undertaken to protect the area’s water.”


@LarynGilmour
laryn.gilmour@blackpress.ca

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