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Good news deposited in campaign to protect Shuswap Lake from algal blooms

More farms apply for water quality funding, environment ministry responds to problem
The wharf in Salmon Arm Bay on Shuswap Lake in 2021. In the summers of 2020 and 2022, algal blooms in the lake prompted concerns. (File photo)

Some good news was heard recently regarding Shuswap Lake and algal blooms.

Coun. Debbie Cannon, who represents Salmon Arm on the Shuswap Watershed Council (SWC), said the watershed council’s latest Water Quality Grant Program was oversubscribed.

The program invites farmers, landowners, hobby farmers, agricultural businesses and stewardship groups in the Shuswap watershed to apply for funding towards projects or land management practices that reduce, capture or divert nutrients away from the water.

Cannon told city council having too many applicants is a good position to be in, because often it’s hard to get the word out and the applications in.

Out of nine applications, a total of $53,000 will be distributed between the five applicants chosen, which will leverage about $57,000 in other funds and in-kind contributions for a total watershed investment of about $110,000.

While anyone with a farm or property in the Shuswap watershed is eligible, farms located along the Salmon or Shuswap rivers are being prioritized for funding.

Cannon also brought up discussions regarding a March 2 letter the SWC received from George Heyman, the B.C. environment minister, in response to its letters about persistent algal blooms that occurred in Salmon Arm Bay in 2022 and 2020.

“We felt the letter we got back just seemed like a boiler-plate one. It didn’t really mean much,” she said.

Read more: Shuswap Watershed Council’s concern over algal blooms gets provincial reply

But Cannon then explained a ministry representative showed up unexpectedly at the SWC meeting. She told SWC members the letter did have some weight and movement is being made regarding algal blooms.

“We did all feel after she commented, perhaps we’re going to get some action…, so that was a plus, a positive meeting,” Cannon said. She added the presenter emphasized agriculture.

“We need to realize what’s affecting our watershed and one of the biggest polluters really is the Salmon River, that watershed area there… I think you’ll see them focus on that even more.”

Mayor Alan Harrison said at this year’s Union of BC Municipalities convention, a meeting with the environment ministry about algal blooms would be at the top of his list.

“I think having representatives from the Shuswap Watershed Council join members of council in a meeting with the Ministry of Environment – we applied (for a meeting) last year and were unsuccessful. But if the CSRD and us both apply for a meeting, I think the possibility would be good,” he said.

Coun. Kevin Flynn said he wants to make sure everyone is aware that years ago council made a wise decision to provide general revenue funds to the Shuswap Watershed Council. He said the Columbia Shuswap Regional District will need to go back to the taxpayers in the next year or two for support to continue SWC funding.

“If we at this table feel strongly about what the Shuswap Watershed Council is doing, we need to get that information out in public that we support it, that we’ll continue to support it.”

Read more: Video: Shuswap Watershed Council shows off success of nutrient management projects

Read more: Good news: Algae tests in two areas of Shuswap Lake don’t contain toxin
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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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