The ongoing restoration of Mission Creek in Kelowna has received a $249,000 grant from the federal government to the Central Okanagan Land Trust.
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said the money will be used for the initial restoration project this fall to set back the dikes and widen the creek, establish a flood plain, add creek-bank riparian vegetation and improve adjacent agricultural land drainage.
“Further grants will be sought in the future to continue this work, to enhance fish stocks and wildlife and protect lands from flooding,” Basran said.
Ron Cannan, Kelowna-Lake Country MP, said the grant reflects a partnership instigated by the land trust that encompasses provincial, federal and civic governments along with the Okanagan Nation Alliance, Westbank First Nation, Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Okanagan Basin Water Board, Central Okanagan Naturalists Club and UBC Okanagan-Engineering.
“It’s important to understand the importance of creating partnerships and the potential for that to help get things done,” Cannan said.
Cannan described Mission Creek as the largest watershed in the Okanagan, one that provides 25 per cent of all water entering Okanagan Lake.
Designated a B.C. heritage river in 1997, Cannan said the creek is home to an abundance of wildlife and fish along with several species at risk including painted turtles, spotted bats, whit-throated swifts, western screech owls and the great blue heron.
Since the 1950s, Cannan explained that sections of Mission Creek have been channelized and diked to prevent flooding. Ironically ,those changes have ended up increasing the risk of flooding should the dikes fail or the creek banks be breached.
“That is a lesson we learned from the Canmore floods in June 2013 and the flooding impact that had on Calgary,” said Cannan. “Sometimes we have to learn from our mistakes and experiments that don’t work as they were intended.”
Ultimately, Cannan said the Mission Creek Restoration Initiative is about turning the clock back on Mission Creek to its original flow course and repair the ecological damage that has occurred.
Wayne Wilson, executive director of the Central Okanagan Land Trust, thanked the support of the COLT board members, in particular president Kurt Zander and Don Knox, who was born and raised in Kelowna, for understanding how important the Mission Creek corridor is to the Central Okanagan.
“This grant money was not available to local governments, so it was up to the Central Okanagan Land Trust to move forward with the application to preserve and enhance what is an iconic setting for residents and visitors alike.
“(The Central Okanagan Land Trust) has been around for 25 years, working as a board and with other partners, starting with the Rose Valley pond project to this latest announcement,” Wilson said.
“We are intimately involved in this project now and we hope to go forward with just as much vigour to enhance the biodiversity of the region.
“In the end, we are all partners in encouraging healthy biodiversity in our region. We are all better off as human beings if we live in a healthy environment, with clean water and clean air. Projects like (the Mission Creek Restoration Initiative) move us stronger in that direction.