What would you pay?

Survey says, 96 per cent of respondents are willing to pay to protect the Shuswap Watershed.

Survey says, 96 per cent of respondents are willing to pay to protect the Shuswap Watershed.

A coalition of environmental groups launched an online survey Aug. 19 asking respondents to identify the community they live in and answer the following question: “Do you support the expenditures needed to fund the pilot project that includes the comprehensive water quality monitoring program (approximately $10 per dwelling per year)?”

As of Monday the coalition had received 300 completed surveys.

With local governments seemingly stalled on the question of funding support, the Shuswap Watershed Alliance released the survey to gauge the level of public support for implementation of the Shuswap Lake Integrated Planning Process (SLIPP) strategic plan.

A coalition of eight organizations that work to help protect the health of the region’s environment, the alliance believes the plan addresses many of the problems facing the watershed.

“We believe that the general public is most concerned about the declining health of our lakes, rivers and streams and wants to see governments work together to find solutions,” says Shuswap Environmental Action president Jim Cooperman. “This survey will provide an opportunity for the public to send this message to our political leaders.”

Algae blooms, foreshore development disputes, riverbank erosion, agricultural runoff, high-speed and often congested speedboat activity, and houseboat greywater pollution are some of indicators that concern environmentalists.

An implementation plan crafted after nearly three years of studies and meetings, calls for the establishment of a Shuswap Watershed board to oversee effective water quality monitoring, recreation management planning, better compliance and enforcement, communication and education, foreshore development planning, and other activities needed to better protect the entire watershed.

Modeled after the very successful Okanagan Water Board, the Shuswap Watershed Board would include participation from all levels of governments, the public and a scientific advisory committee.

The province has agreed to pick up half the tab, says Cooperman, but the three regional districts will have to come up with $335,000, an amount that will be paid by taxpayers – estimated to be about an average of $10 per year for a three-year pilot project that would include a water quality monitoring program.

Premier Gordon Campbell recently awarded the 2009/1010 Premier’s Award to SLIPP stating: “The process and resulting strategic plan now serves as a blueprint for jurisdictions around B.C.”

“Despite this success, implementation of the plan remains stalled as the Columbia-Shuswap and North Okanagan Regional Districts have yet to commit the funds needed for the proposed pilot project, even though many directors support the endeavour,” Cooperman says.

CSRD South Shuswap director Ted Bacigalupo says he is somewhat concerned that local politicians don’t seem to recognize that the SLIPP process provides the opportunity to tackle the mostly human-made problems affecting the watershed and, more importantly, come up with solutions.

“It’s rather an irony that the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, representing no less than 22 independent jurisdictions, has seen fit to step up to the plate financially to help implement SLIPP,” he says. “The real irony is they’re not a contributor to the water quality challenges in the Shuswap Watershed.”

Bacigalupo maintains that funding needed to complete a three-year pilot project is far less than what will have to be paid if the watershed is allowed to further deteriorate and, as an example, points to the “dying” Lake Winnipeg and the Great Lakes, where billions of dollars have been spent in restoration efforts.

He applauds the watershed alliance and hopes their support will be sufficient to convince other local politicians to sign on to SLIPP.

The survey can be completed online by following the link at www.shuswapwatershed.ca.