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Shuswap Watershed Council responds to public claims, criticisms

CSRD referendum scheduled for Feb. 3
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A Columbia Shuswap Regional District referendum on funding of the Shuswap Watershed Council is scheduled for Feb. 3, 2024. (Shuswap Watershed Council image)

The Shuswap Watershed Council (SWC) has responded to several claims and criticisms circulating on social media in advance of a referendum on the organization’s future.

On Feb. 3, residents of electoral areas C, D, E, F, and G, and the District of Sicamous, will vote in a Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) referendum on whether to fund the SWC service annually via taxation.

In August 2023, after the referendum had been temporarily postponed, the CSRD board supported an amendment bylaw to extend the watershed council’s service by one year, until Dec. 31, 2024. The CSRD said the SWC service may continue to be funded and remain operational for the year, pending the results of the referendum.

On Jan. 22, 2024, the SWC released an article responding to “certain claims and criticisms posted recently on social media and opinion letters that call for a response or a correction.”

The first claim is that the SWC is a non-regulatory group “which means that responsibility for the functions of the SWC are the responsibility of other government agencies,” and that taxpayers responsible for the service “are being asked to continue to pay double taxes for a service that we are already taxed for.”

The SWC concurred it is not a regulatory body, stating its work focuses on “collaboration, advocacy, incentives, and contributing to water monitoring and research,” and that it takes “great care not to duplicate the work done by its member organizations.”

The SWC also addressed claims raised around how it has been funded. Since 2016, the SWC has been funded by the CSRD, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, the City of Salmon Arm and the Adams Lake Indian Band (since 2017), read the article.

“The CSRD has contributed $160,000 per year except for in 2016 ($108,900), 2017 ($155,000) and 2021 ($97,200).”

This leads to another claim, that “for this huge investment, taxpayers have received limited, if any, value and no measurable water quality improvement.”

Read more: Shuswap Watershed Council referendum vote rescheduled for February

Read more: CSRD board drops decision on Shuswap Watershed Council mid referendum

In response, the SWC first notes,”water quality is a shared responsibility, and a multitude of factors impact water quality. As such, no single agency or organization can take credit for water quality improvement (nor be accused for lack thereof).” The article then summarizes work/projects the SWC has initiated and/or been part of, including educational campaigns around invasive mussels, water monitoring and research and watershed restoration projects.

“To date, the SWC has advanced $178,000 in grant funding for 13 projects, which has leveraged $287,000 for a total investment of $465,000 in the Shuswap watershed since 2020,” said the SWC.

To another claim, that support of the SWC in the assent vote would “result in household water metering and/or water and well licensing,” the organization stated it does not have any involvement in metering or licensing – that metering is the responsibility of water suppliers or local/regional governments, while licensing is the responsibility of the province.

To a claim that the B.C. government has not taken an interest in the SWC, the organization said the province has been involved with it since the SWC’s inception in 2014.

“The engagement of the Province has expanded over the years, and there are now three representatives from the Province participating in the SWC: one each from the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy, the Ministry of Forests, and the Ministry of Agriculture & Food,” said the SWC.

The SWC describes itself as a collaborative, non-regulatory group that focuses on strategic initiatives to protect, maintain and enhance water quality and to promote safe recreation in the Shuswap.

The complete article can be found online at fraserbasin.bc.ca/Shuswap_Water.html, and on the SWC’s Facebook page.



Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor of the Salmon Arm Observer, Shuswap Market, and Eagle Valley News. I'm always looking for new and exciting ways to keep our readers informed and engaged.
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