2014, WaterWealth's second year, got off to an auspicious start with a nomination for the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce ‘Not for Profit’ Award. WaterWealth ED Sheila Muxlow presented at the Watersheds 2014 conference in Duncan, BC. A furor erupted in Chilliwack and beyond after folks found out, on the day of the public hearing, about the rezoning application for a hazardous waste facility on the banks of the Fraser River. Right next door to the hazardous waste site we investigated a report of oil leaking into a wetland area and stream. The substance turned out to be wood leachate. Not as bad as oil, but still a concern for aquatic life. That issue is now the subject of an access to information request to Environment Canada, response to which is long overdue.
The Water Sustainability Act (WSA) was the major focus of the first quarter of 2014. WaterWealth and Community-reVision.org paired up to deliver the majority of public input on the water pricing consultation. Other WSA focused activities included meetings with provincial representatives and a meeting, along with West Coast Environmental Law, with the Lillooet First Nation at the request of the Pegpiglha Council.
As it became apparent that the City of Chilliwack was not going to apply as an intervenor in the National Energy Board process regarding Kinder Morgan’s proposal to add a second heavy oil pipeline on the Trans Mountain route, WaterWealth scrambled to make a last minute application and were successful. We joined community members to take media on a tour to see the pipeline route across Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park and the then proposed alternate route through Cheam Wetlands Regional Park. We stopped at an open excavation just east of Bridal Falls, one of many spots where the original 61-year old pipeline was dug up for repairs. We remain engaged with the NEB process and have also arranged and assisted with meetings of intervenors to compare notes and share support. The existing and proposed pipelines are very much a concern in the Chilliwack area as, in addition to other drinking water sources, they cross both the aquifer that the City of Chilliwack use now for drinking water, as well as the aquifer the City plans to use for future growth.
Also early in 2014 we garnered public input on the new Chilliwack Official Community Plan and on new riparian areas regulations for the Official Community Plans of the Fraser Valley Regional District, held a series of events through Canada Water Week to connect people with their home waters, took part in river cleanups, and formally introduced WaterWealth to the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
Highlights of the second quarter included launch of a study of in-river gravel mining in the region, meeting water folks from across the country at a training retreat hosted by the Canadian Freshwater Alliance, and initiation of a two-year ‘Water Wins’ study involving WaterWealth and the Wellington Water Watchers, under Professor R. Case of the University of Waterloo.
Work/family balance featured prominently in Summer months as Sheila Muxlow the WaterWealth ED went on maternity leave in June. Interim Director Ian Stephen had a family experience at the other end of life as he and his siblings laid their father’s ashes to rest on Mount Polley, a place where their father had made the original mineral find in 1964. One week after placing his father’s ashes within sight of the Mount Polley mine tailings containment, Ian watched in horror from the WaterWealth office as news came online of the tailings dam failure.
Moving into the later months of the year, WaterWealth were one of five groups accepted to take part in a National Freshwater Fund campaign with Small Change Fund. We shot a fun public service announcement with Shaw TV’s ‘Go! Fraser Valley’ and had our first Streamkeeper training thanks to the generosity of ZoAnn Morten of Pacific Streamkeepers who sourced donated equipment and travelled to Chilliwack to provide training. WaterWealth hosted a roundtable discussion of water governance with a group that included leading local professionals. Following that roundtable we produced a synthesis document of input on water governance received throughout the year. On October 29 we took part in a tour of the Cowichan watershed hosted by the University of Victoria’s POLIS Water Sustainability Project and the Cowichan Watershed Board.
The day after the Cowichan tour was spent in a full day ‘Water Leaders’ meeting in Victoria where provincial staff reported on progress of Water Sustainability Act implementation and a joint statement was produced by the attending water leaders. November saw the BC local elections and WaterWealth was present in the local governance sphere as well. We developed and sent a questionnaire to some 140 candidates in eight jurisdictions (lumping FVRD areas as one of those eight) and published the responses with the help of Community reVision’s online talent.
2014 was a busy year with good work done on a variety of fronts, all toward the goal of long term protection of our shared home waters. The help of our community, both online and off, has been and will continue to be essential to WaterWealth's effectiveness. It is the participation of the many friends of the project who are committed to protection of the water wealth we share in this region that makes WaterWealth what it is. We look forward to that participation; volunteering, on social media, by donations, through letters to policy makers and media, contributing to great things going forward.
We're laying the foundations for 2015 to be our most ambitious year yet!
WaterWealth has new activities planned to help people appreciate and learn more about their shared home waters through economic, ecological, cultural, historic, and spiritual lenses. We will be growing our streamkeeping activities to provide fun and educational activity that people can engage in year-round, while providing valuable data on the health of waterways and aquatic life in the region. Geocaching will be explored as a tool to help people get out and learn more about water places of particular significance. A series of ‘Discover Your Home Waters’ walks will introduce folks to places and aspects of their home waters that they may not have encountered previously. In partnership with Watershed Watch Salmon Society there will also be a series of Watershed Yoga events, highlighting the interconnectedness of healthy waters with healthy lives.
In the legislative sphere, WaterWealth remains engaged in the process of regulation development and implementation of the new Water Sustainability Act, as well as supporting residents to engage in the City of Abbotsford Official Community Plan update. We will continue to engage decision makers at all levels of government. Of course in all of these activities we will continue to report progress and offer ways to get involved.
Community engagement and Legislative engagement work in tandem to support building capacity for watershed governance in the region. Working with the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER) and the Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe (TT), we will explore Indigenous led watershed governance in the Ts’elxwéyeqw traditional territory. Lessons from the CIER/TT project will also serve to inform our most ambitious project yet, development of a watershed governing body for the Heart of the Fraser, that region from Hope to Mission. Both the CIER/TT and Heart of the Fraser projects seek to draw out the potential of the new Water Sustainability Act to implement legally enforceable watershed co-governance as part of integrated land and resource management that meaningfully recognizes Indigenous Rights and Title and ensures clean flowing waters for people, for nature and for future generations.
Our work is very much a labour of love. Water touches everything: our homes, industries, agriculture, recreation, energy policy, and more. Much of our work is unfunded and we fit those things in as best we are able. For the funding that allows us to keep doing what we do, we are forever grateful to the many supporters who donate even small amounts. Those add up! We are also thankful for the support of many local businesses who contribute to our events and to sponsors who support our major projects; The Real Estate Foundation of BC, Mountain Equipment Coop, Patagonia, Vancouver Foundation, Vancity, Canadian Freshwater Alliance, Indigenous Environmental Network, and Western Mining Action Network.
Happy New Year! 2015 is going to be exciting!