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Shuswap Watershed Council’s concern over algal blooms gets provincial reply

Further investigation into nutrient inputs coming, says BC Minister of Environment
A large algal bloom in Shuswap Lake near Salmon Arm in summer 2020. (Trevor Andrew photo)

Shuswap Watershed Council has received a reply from the province regarding Salmon Arm Bay’s repeating algal bloom problem.

The Shuswap Watershed Council (SWC) wrote to Hon. George Heyman, B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, outlining concerns about the persistent algal blooms in the bay in 2020 and 2022.

Minister Heyman responded by stating that a recent provincial assessment had taken place on the water quality in the Salmon River, the river that runs into Shuswap Lake and Salmon Arm Bay. The reply didn’t outline specific assessment results but stated the ministry will do further investigative work to find out more about nutrient inputs to the lake. Nutrient inputs are a key factor in the formation of algal blooms and the letter stated further that work will be done to reduce inputs wherever possible.

The SWC has extensive knowledge of nutrient contributions to the lake via Salmon River. A University of British Columbia Okanagan research team worked with SWC on a study which revealed agriculture practices and homes at the bottom of the Salmon River Valley are the biggest contributors of nutrient inputs into the river. A release from SWC reported that the findings are consistent with similar studies across North America.

Recently, the SWC developed the Water Quality Grant Program to help farms with funding for new and improved nutrient management plans to protect water quality in the area.

READ MORE: Shuswap Watershed Council inviting grant applicants for water quality projects

The minister’s letter also mentioned the promotion and enforcement of Agricultural Environmental Management Code regulations, which came into effect provincially in 2019 and are being phased in over the coming years. Heyman also expressed appreciation for the SWC’s work in educating about and protecting water quality.

READ MORE: Homeowners, industry encouraged to take action to protect water quality in the Shuswap

“Keeping Shuswap Lake pristine will take a combination of educational and regulatory actions. The SWC can do education and provide incentives, but the regulatory and monitoring work is the province’s mandate,” said Jay Simpson, SWC chair.

Both the SWC’s letter and the minister’s response can be found at Contact Jay Simpson at 250-517-9578 or Erin Vieira or Alex de Chantal at the Fraser Basin Council in Kamloops at 250-314-9660 for more information.

READ MORE: Columbia Shuswap Regional District awaits funding for FireSmart


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Rebecca Willson

About the Author: Rebecca Willson

I took my first step into the journalism industry in November 2022 when I moved to Salmon Arm to work for the Observer and Eagle Valley News. I graduated with a journalism degree in December 2021 from MacEwan University in Edmonton.
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