The Shuswap Lake Integrated Planning Process (SLIPP) three- year pilot program will end as planned, on March 31, 2014. At the June SLIPP steering committee meeting there was unanimous support for a new program to succeed SLIPP having water quality as its primary focus, and consensus support for safety education on water-based activities as a secondary objective.
At the September strategic planning session it was discussed that the new program would differ considerably from SLIPP and therefore, should receive a new and more appropriate title. At the October session there was feedback provided on a new terms of reference and a developmental year plan.
This new program, tentatively named the Shuswap Watershed Water Quality Program (SWWQP), will not be initiated until 2015, assuming approval and funding. The proposed program would include the entire Shuswap watershed. In the interim, 2014 is proposed as a developmental year with the following activities:
• continued but reduced levels of water- quality monitoring
• reassessment of the water-quality monitoring plan
• development of a water-quality remediation program
• engagement of all those with a vested interest in the watershed
• development of a safety education plan for water-based activities
• development of a water-quality communications and education plan
Further to these activities, many other questions will need to be addressed regarding the governance framework, partners, and funding of the proposed program.
SLIPP received a Premier’s Award in 2009/10 as an innovative program using collaboration to achieve common goals. The water-quality monitoring program involved local governments, numerous volunteers, Ministry of Environment staff, scientific experts, Fisheries and Oceans Canada staff and Interior Health. It is the most comprehensive body of scientific knowledge compiled about our lakes, with 250 monitoring sites and more than 30,000 tests in its data base. It clearly demonstrates the power of collaboration.
Despite these impressive accomplishments, SLIPP has not existed without controversy. Unfortunately, there has been a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding about SLIPP. The foreshore restoration program has been described as ill-conceived and poorly executed. The recreation management plan has no apparent means of implementation. But perhaps the most important learning from the SLIPP Pilot Program is the need to engage and continually communicate with all orders of government, community groups and the public.
The Shuswap watershed is a primary pillar of our economic wellbeing. It contributes to our quality of life, and is a source of drinking water for many. On this basis, local governments have a responsibility as stewards of our watershed. Decisions should not be defaulted to Victoria or Ottawa, nor should we expect that others will act in the best interests of our watershed. Decisions about the Shuswap watershed are best made by people living in the Shuswap.
That’s what the SWWQP developmental year is all about…developing the best plan possible with input from all sectors of our community.
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-Paul Demenok is the Area C director for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District