Happy 2014! The year started out right for our home waters, with much gratitude and hope at a water ceremony led by Sto:lo elder Eddie Gardner on the banks of the Vedder River on New Years Day. Nearly 30 community members of all backgrounds gathered to start the year off with a commitment to ensuring healthy waterways.
Needless to say, this event was a catalyst for reflecting on all the things there are to look forward to this year -- I can't help but think how lucky we are to call the Fraser Valley home! Our home waters boast plentiful runs of salmon and trout, which sustain the appetites of families and recreational sportsmen alike. The rain, although sometimes a challenge to live with, helps to cleanse the land and air and replenish our surface and groundwater systems keeping our home region fertile and productive.
And not only do we have some of the cleanest, most productive waterways in Canada, but we have some of the most committed community members to ensure that our home waters stay that way.
Local Residents Spoke Out Against Threats in 2013
Whether it is plans from Texas-based Energy companies like Kinder Morgan for heavy oil pipelines over our drinking water aquifer, or housing development plans that threaten to fill in salmon bearing waterways, or proposals from Ontario-based waste companies like Aevitas to build a toxic waste recycling site for mercury and PCBs on a known floodplain alongside the world-famous Fraser River, Valley residents have organized and spoken up showing that protecting water is an unquestionable priority for our community.
Pair all this grassroots brilliance with a growing number of supporters and volunteers with the WaterWealth Project -- and of course the continued efforts of groups like the Fraser Valley Watershed Coalition, Chilliwack/Vedder River Clean Up Society, Fraser Basin Council, Cultus Lake Aquatic Stewardship Strategy and more -- and it is clear that there is an incredibly strong home team working to safeguard our home rivers, lakes, streams, aquifers, and wetlands.
Let's Build a Game Plan Together for 2014
But we all know that to have a winning team it takes having a tight game plan.
So how can we plan to protect our home waters in 2014? At WaterWealth, our perspective is that we need to change the way decisions are made around water so the local people who call the watershed home and are most directly affected by the consequences have the right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. We believe this is possible by cultivating a “Watershed Protection Plan” for the home waters we all share.
We need to be able to point to a plan that clearly lays out what we do want, rather than being stuck in a trap of defending against what we don’t want, having to jump from threat to threat as competing interests push their private agendas. Ultimately, a plan like this would usher long-term effective protection for our home waters through 100% local control, because the plan would be made by the community, for the community.
In the meantime this does not mean that we do not act to safeguard our home waters when threats arise, it just means that we hold on to the long-term vision of what we are working towards and use every opportunity we can to build towards the relationships, expertise and talents required for 100% community control over decisions that affect our home waters.
What does this look like? Changing how decisions are made, is much like being a salmon swimming upstream until you can find a resting place to spawn. It takes energy, commitment and inspiration. Here are how some of our key activities are shaping up for 2014 and how can get involved:
In 2013 it was our tireless team of volunteers and supporters who kept us going and there is no question we need the same for 2014. Our volunteer coordinator Natalie Jones is gearing up for a Volunteer Kick Off Party on February 4th. There are a number of core committees and roles that are essential to this work. We will also be building our ‘Get Your Feet Wet’ initiative to involve more groups and share more opportunities for people to get involved with existing events, projects, and research opportunities that pertain to safe-guarding our precious water ways.
In the human world, it also takes money to make this journey. We have had some success on our Indiegogo Home Waters Campaign, and we have three weeks to ramp things up and reach our goal of $10,000. If you have not already, please watch our short video, share it with your networks and consider making a donation - no amount is too small!
3. Supporting Indigenous & Non-Indigenous community dialogue
Also we think it only makes sense to connect with the people who have lived in this region the longest and have the most experience in stewarding the water. In our case that would be the Sto:lo, aka 'The People of the River'. The Ts'elxwéyeqw Tribe, Sto:lo Tribal Council, Sto:lo Nation and the Sto:lo Research and Resource Management Center have incredible data, not only of the history, but also the present day workings of the Valley waterways we all rely on. It makes sense to build off this knowledge under the leadership of First Nations to create a workable watershed protection plan for the community and it is a priority of WaterWealth to continue to support opportunities for more relationship building between Sto:lo and non-indigenous folks in our home town.
4. We want to hear from you - businesses survey, storymapping, roundtables
We also know how essential healthy waterways are to the local economy that we rely on today. Many local people – especially in the agriculture, fishing and tourism sectors - depend on water for their livelihoods. We want to get a better sense of these relationships to water by working closely with groups like the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce and the Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation on a survey to business owners, storymapping and hosting community round tables on what Chilliwack needs to see to achieve 100% community control.
5. Engaging with local representatives and decision-makers
Furthermore we will continue to meet with the decision makers, organizations and residents across the political spectrum, overcome the stereotypes and biases of the ‘left’ vrs ‘right’ type political thinking that tends to keep us divided and unproductive. We plan to engage in the municipal election to ensure that water is visible and plans for water protection are a top priority for the candidates.
6. Keep up to date with WaterWealth V-Logs
To keep you up to speed on this work and more we will be introducing WaterWealth video blogs, where we will share short videos on different water issues and developments that are underway. If you are intrigued to do a ‘water blog’ of your own please do and we would love to help share it!
SO THAT'S THE PLAN - ARE YOU IN?