Monthly Archives: April 2014

Forest Practices Board releases new report on forestry and range use of community watersheds

From the Forest Practices Board of BC:

Community watersheds are regulated by government under FRPA because special forest management is required to protect the quality and amount of water available to users who rely on it for drinking. The findings of this investigation suggest that the designation of community watershed is inappropriate in some watersheds, and where it is warranted, the protection provided is inadequate.

This special investigation is about how well forestry and range use provides for the protection of drinking water as required under FRPA. The investigation focuses on how the requirements for drinking water are being met in a sample of 466 designated areas, referred to as community watersheds. These areas are designated because government decided the watersheds require special forest management for the protection of drinking water.

Download Full Report (pdf)


News Release:

Protection of Drinking Water in Community Watersheds Examined

VICTORIA – An investigation of how well the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA)protects drinking water in community watersheds has identified a number of improvements necessary to help ensure government objectives for drinking water quality and quantity are achieved.

“The status and management of community watersheds needs to be reviewed by government to ensure this resource is being properly managed in those places where it needs to be managed, in consideration of all types of development activity,” said board chair Tim Ryan.

While most forestry licensees were following the legal requirements, the investigation identified several weaknesses in managing community watersheds under FRPA. Among the findings:

  • The requirements to protect drinking water are not clear or well understood.
  • Commitments made in forestry plans to protect drinking water are not always enforceable.
  • Greater emphasis needs to be placed on erosion and sediment control on forestry roads. In many community watersheds, forestry activities from decades ago, and other land uses like mining, recreation and power projects, are affecting water quality. However, the legacy issues and other activities are not subject to the same requirements as current forestry activities.
  • Government does not monitor current forest practices to see if drinking water objectives are achieved in community watersheds.

“We also found a disconnect where a number of watersheds are designated, but no longer provide drinking water to a community,” added Ryan.

The board has examined forest stewardship plans in 48 of the 131 designated community watersheds with forestry activity in recent years. Forest practices and watershed condition were examined in 12 of the 48 watersheds.

The board makes six recommendations to help improve the legislative framework and ensure government’s objectives for community watersheds are achieved.

  1. Clarify FRPA’s requirements for the protection of water.
  2. Define the concept of cumulative hydrological effects.
  3. Strengthen the content and approval of forest stewardship plans.
  4. Ensure the content of professional assessments is meaningful.
  5. Monitor achievement of the community watershed objective.
  6. Update the status of community watersheds.

The Forest Practices Board is B.C.’s independent watchdog for sound forest and range practices, reporting its findings and recommendations directly to the public and governent. The board can investigate and report on current forestry and range issues and make recommendations for improvement to practices and legislation.

New consensus on water values, governance and priorities for BC

The POLIS Project on Ecological Governance – Water Sustainability Project has released the consensus on water values, governance and priorities from the Watersheds 2014 Forum in January. From the document:

Watersheds 2014: Towards Watershed Governance in British Columbia and Beyond was held on Cowichan Tribes territory in Duncan, British Columbia from January 27th to 29th, 2014. This forum attracted nearly 200 delegates, plus an additional over 75 virtual participants via online satellite events across the country. The delegates came from a diversity of backgrounds—including watershed groups, researchers, professional resource managers, and decision-makers at all levels of government,
including First Nations—who came together to re-envision the way we use, share, and respect our freshwater and watershed resources. This consensus represents the general spirit of common understanding of values, principles, and priorities by those at the forum and is supported by a number of organizations which were partners on the event.

Our Common Values
Water is life. Water is our relation. Water bonds us across time and place to our ancestors, to our descendants, and to our land. Water nourishes, replenishes, cleanses, and refreshes. It is the source of food, sustains our salmon, supports our rich
environment, and powers our economy. It is critical to our community and economic prosperity.
Water cannot be owned as it is shared by all life on Earth. It is a public trust that provides a universal link between all cultures and species, requiring us to understand each other’s experiences, histories, and identities. As such, we each have a duty of
stewardship and share a mutual responsibility to ensure water is protected and stewarded to provide for its availability for the health and resilience of all life.

Quw'utsun' Cultural and Conference Centre

Kettle River Q&A: What did we learn about issues on the water’s edge?

On April 15, nearly 40 residents of the Boundary came together in Grand Forks to learn and share ideas about issues at the water’s edge – floodplains, riparian areas, and wetlands.

The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary held the meeting to gather input on key issues in the Kettle River Watershed Management Plan before the plan is finalized.

I gave a presentation (pdf)with photos showing the good, the bad and the ugly. We also learned from Jenny Coleshill of the Granby Wilderness Society about the importance of riparian areas and her current work to assess how people are impacting them.

Participant Donna Seminoff asked a question that bears repeating: “Can you break it down for everyone – what happens when people cut trees and shrubs on the shoreline?”

The long answer depends on the site, the soils, and the stream or lake setting. But here’s the short of it:

Trees, shrubs and native plants have large root systems that buffer moving water during floods. When we remove them and replace them with non-native grass, which has much shallower roots, high waters can easily undermine banks and cause them to slump, and water running over the surface can carve into the banks. The added sand, gravel and stones in turn provide even more material and energy to the river, leading it to spread out further downstream.

Mown grass can't hold the bank together during heavy rains
Mown grass can’t hold the bank together during heavy rains

Participants worked in groups on four main topics: limiting risks from flooding and erosion; improving riparian areas near development; controlling impacts of resource roads on stream health; and encouraging agricultural protection and conservation of streams and wetlands.

Mark Andison, RDKB General Manager of Operations, noted that the public raised a broad range of potential solutions, “everything from re-establishing the Granby Dam, to dredging gravel, to giving out trees and shrubs for shoreline property owners.”

Some of the other suggestions included implementing ecosystem-based stewardship in resource management areas, building skills and providing a ‘toolkit’ for grassroots monitoring and stewardship, developing incentives and land-use control rules for developing near water, and regulation and pricing that makes resource users and polluters pay more of the costs of regulation and impacts on other users.

I spoke with Doug Fossen from the Kettle River Stockmen’s Association after the event for his perspective. Fossen said that much work is being done on improving both private lands and range management areas, and that funding is available for many projects – “working with the Environmental Farm Plan you can access funding for off-site watering, riparian fencing, irrigation improvements or other projects.”

We are following up on the meeting with a discussion paper that works through the issues and solutions and outlines concrete, practical actions to reduce risks and improve environmental conditions.

Thank you to the RDKB for hosting the event and all of the participants for their involvement.

– Graham Watt is the coordinator of the Kettle River Watershed Management Plan for the RDKB, and is working with a Stakeholder Advisory Group from across the region to develop the plan. Email

Melting snows and rising flows

Warm weather over the last several days has brought the Granby and Kettle Rivers up to or higher than normal flows (see figures below). The BC Water Supply Bulletin for April 1 shows the Okanagan-Kettle region at 97% of normal and the West Kootenay region at 118% of normal, indicating an overall normal seasonal flood risk. By the end of April upper elevation snowpack in our region typically switches from accumulation to snow melt. Provincial snow pillows at Mission Creek (north of Big White), Grano Creek (east side of Christian Valley) and Barnes Creek (north of Granby Provincial Park in the Monashees) show upper elevation snow packs near or slightly above average.

Flooding during spring freshet depends on snowpack but is highly sensitive to seasonal weather – as the Water Supply Bulletin notes, heavy precipitation or very warm weather can cause flooding in normal or below-normal snow packs. Above normal temperatures are highly likely for the period between April 19 and 26. The next Water Supply Bulletin will be released on May 8 based on April 1 snowpack data and regional forecasts.

Current (solid) and long-term average (dashed) discharge (cubic metres per second) of the Granby River near Grand Forks.
US Geological Survey graph of the last 60 days of flow (cubic feet per second) at Ferry, WA (bottom, near Midway) and Laurier, WA (top, near Christina Lake)
US Geological Survey graph of the last 60 days of flow (cubic feet per second) at Ferry, WA (bottom, near Midway) and Laurier, WA (top, near Christina Lake)

Summer jobs available for Riparian Health Assessment

DSCF0085The Granby Wilderness Society is offering two field positions this summer conducting riparian health assessments and related fieldwork. The Granby Wilderness Society is leading a Riparian Threat Assessment in support of the Kettle River Watershed Management Plan, with support from the Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition, the RDKB, and local governments. This job opportunity includes extensive training from local biologists and ecologists in plant identification, watershed health, field assessment protocols, and field safety. Contact Jenny Coleshill ( for more information.