Water Week 2014... It's a Wrap!

Canada Water Week 2014 ran March 17-23 in the Fraser Valley, and what a busy week it was!

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Just when preparations for Water Week events were really getting under way, the provincial government introduced the Water Sustainability Act in the Legislature.  At 181 pages of legalese, referencing myriad other Acts, and with the government looking for public feedback on water pricing; suddenly WaterWealth had a major and urgent task at hand to digest this legislation and respond to media and other inquiries about it.

No matter for Water Week dreams! We stayed committed to the goal of sharing in some fun and engaging events with many fellow community members throughout the week-long coast-to-coast-to-coast celebration of the fresh waters that sustain us all. And, if we may say so ourselves, success was achieved!

Take a Look....

We started the week on Monday with the 'Get To Know Your Home Waters' Walk. People young and old gathered at the banks of the Vedder River to hear from local experts on various topics relating to this popular area.  Dean Werk ><(((">Great River Fishing Adventures <")))>< shared his history of growing up on the river and spoke of the different runs of fish that make their way upstream year round and the important value they provide not only for the ecosystem but also for the local economy. Rachel Drennan of the Fraser Valley Watersheds Coalition talked about the important work her organization has done to restore fish spawning habitat and the value of maintaining clean channels of water for overall river health.  Larry Commodore, former Soowahlie Councillor and Chief and WaterWealth Community Advisor told us of the history of the area, including how the river way was diverted due to a landslide and than later affected by the draining of Sumas Lake in the 1920s. He also emphasized the importance of respecting First Nation's title & rights when it comes to protecting our home water ways.

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Winter Challenge 2014: The Deeper Story

winterchallenge.jpgVariations on an ancient Indigenous practice are going viral in the social media. Called-- and you've probably heard of it already-- "Winter Challenge 2014"; in which participants are asked to either fully immerse themselves in a body of water or, where there's snow, make snow angels while wearing swim attire or, lastly, where either of these aren't possible, getting drenched with a pail of water will do. Regardless of the method, the main idea is to get off the couch, out of the house and acquaint yourself with the winter cold.

As Carrie Lynn Victor from the Sto:lo Nation stated in a Global TV news article: "“There’s nothing but positivity in it. It really connects people to each other and to the water.”

melina_winter_challenge.pngThe idea originated with Kura Jack, 19, of Chemanius. After a recent dump of snow, she grew concerned that few of her friends and relatives were outside, enjoying the winter weather. Instead, they seemed more interested in staying inside, watching tv or playing video games. Wanting to set an example, she grabbed her video camera, donned cut-offs and top and did snow angels in the freshly fallen snow. She then nominated others to do the Challenge.

And that's how it spread; the Challenger challenging others. This includes young and old -toddlers and elders alike-- from such locales as Southern California to Alaska; though predominately in Canada, and in particular in BC, and predominately, though not exclusively, native.

MayorWinterChallenge_tnb_4.jpgPublic figures who took the Challenge include AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo, who nominated actor Adam Beach, who took a light hearted approach from poolside in sunny LA. Fellow actor Evan Adams took up the challenge in Hawaii, though he described it as "unseasonably cold". The Mayor of Vancouver Gregor Robertson waded into the waters of English Bay; The Union of BC Indian Chiefs Vice-President Bob Chamberlin dived into the icy reservoir of Collier Dam. The Wilderness Committee's National Campaign Director Joe Foy splashed into Clayoquot Sound. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and BC Premier Christy Clark have been nominated, but no word on whether they'll be doing the Winter Challenge.

 

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Oil Sands Bitumen & the Opportunity to Protect Our Home Waters

KinderMorgan's threat to water poses an opportunity to unite in defence of our drinking water.

Water.  We all need it and although it may seem like we have an abundance in the Valley, the Chilliwack aquifer is a unique, award-winning drinking water source for which we do not have an alternative.

So when Kinder Morgan is proposing to build a new pipeline to transport a heavy oil product - diluted bitumen - directly through this diluted_bitumen.jpgessential part of our community, there is no question that we have an opportunity - a responsibility - to protect what is ours.

Think Chlorine is bad...?

Diluted bitumen is a relatively new fossil fuel product, sought after since the decline of smooth flowing conventional oil sources. It's thick like tar and it's toxic.  When spilled it separates, some components evaporate into the air creating a toxic threat to anyone nearby, others sink in water to settle into bottom sediments and still others flow with water to contaminate shores far away from the spill site.  Complete cleanup is impossible.

tailingslake.jpgTo extract the product, acres of forest and underlying soil need to be removed, wetlands need to be dug up, and fresh water sacrificed to become deadly tailings lakes that in Canada's Oil Sands currently span 176 square kilometres.  Tailings lakes that were recently shown by Environment Canada to be leaking into groundwater and the Athabasca River.  The extent of contamination by naphthenic acids, mercury and other toxins and the impacts of that contamination on remote communities becomes ever more apparent as studies continue.

Transporting diluted bitumen is a dangerous business, as it requires significantly higher temperatures and pressures to move through pipelines. To date most bitumen refining has been done in North America (about 54% in Canada). However recent pipeline proposals seek to transport this heavy oil across thousands of kilometres to ports to be shipped by tanker for refining abroad.  One of these proposals is that of Texas-based Kinder Morgan, which would see a new export pipeline built directly through our home communities in the Fraser Valley.

In Chilliwack, Kinder Morgan has proposed to build a new pipeline adjacent to the Cheam Wetlands, across numerous farmers' fields, a local golf course, and within 500 meters of Vedder Jr, Watson Elementary and Mt. Slesse Middle School. 20131031_006_sm.jpg Directly related to our home waters, the route would run right over the unique drinking water aquifer that provides for 90% of community members in our home town.  From there it would go on to cut directly under the Peach Ponds, the Chilliwack-Vedder River and the new fish habitat being built in the Hopedale Slough.  Leaving Chilliwack, the pipeline would reach the Fraser River near Fort Langley and from there follow the river to where it would cross the Fraser near the Port Mann Bridge.

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Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce Honours WaterWealth Project

It was late January on a blistery cold evening, but hundreds of people dressed in their best 'Black & White' attire gathered in Tzeachten Hall for the 19th Annual Business Awards hosted by the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce.

The hall was kept warm with a territorial welcome from Tzeachten Chief Glenda Campbell and ample food and drink from the Old Yale Brewery, Sardis VQA and The Town Butcher. A range of local businesses contributed stunning prizes for auction, the favourite prize being two black and white cruiser bikes.

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WaterWealth was among numerous groups nominated for the Non-Profit of the Year Award. An honour awarded to numerous other groups in our community including Ann Davis Transition Society, BCSPCA, Big Brothers & Big Sisters of the Fraser Valley, Canadian Home Builders Association of the FV, Cash Mob Chilliwack, Chilliwack Community Arts Council, Chilliwack Community Services, Chilliwack Family YMCA, Chilliwack Hospice Society, Chilliwack Society for Community Living, Kiwanis Club of Sardis, Ruth & Naiomi's Mission

As you can see from the smile on our faces it feels good to be recognized as a community group in service of the people of Chilliwack and we look forward to furthering our relationships and building local capacity for the long-term effective protection of the water wealth that we all rely on.

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New Year, Big Plans - And It Involves You!

salmonceremony.jpgHappy 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

Luckakuck_Creek_Reside.jpgWhether 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.

thinkinglady.jpegSo 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.

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A Busy November at WaterWealth

lt_gov_sm.jpgIt’s been a busy month for the WaterWealth Project. One unique opportunity was a meeting with Her Honour Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon. Earlier this month, Sheila Muxlow and Natalie Jones – two Chilliwack residents – travelled to Victoria seeking insights from Her Honour’s history of action and leadership on local water protection and management issues, a matter of great interest to the two WaterWealth organizers.

In the years before taking office, along with a great deal of other community contributions, Her Honour invested a lot of time to see her home waters in the Nicola Valley protected as they should be,” stated Jones. “What the people of Nicola were trying to accomplish was very inspiring to us; it’s the kind of thing we’d like to see happen here in the Fraser Valley.”

She is referring to the Nicola Water Use Management Plan (WUMP), which was created by an incredibly diverse set of community members on the “multi-stakeholder committee” – including Her Honour – over a number of years. The final plan was released in 2010, and has been held up as a roadmap of what local control of watersheds could look like.

However, the Nicola WUMP was never actually implemented. What happened?

 “We learned that the WUMP stalled due to legislative red-tape and a lack of resources,” explains Muxlow. “It is so saddening to see all those thousands of hours volunteered towards local solutions lie dormant.”

But the two organizers with the local WaterWealth Project aren’t discouraged. “A lot of the roadblocks to implementing the Nicola WUMP, from what we can tell, resulted from very antiquated water laws in this province - the 104 year old Water Act,” shares Jones. “Presently, that legislation is being modernized with the proposed Water Sustainability Act. In this proposed legislation, we see room being created for local control initiatives, such as ‘watershed sustainability plans’.”

But it’s not all good news.

Creating these mechanisms for local control of our home waters will take resources,” chimes Muxlow. She notes, “the new Water Sustainability Act provides an opportunity to raise commercial and industrial water rates from the token amount they are now, to a level where water governance can be self-sustaining. In the new Act we need to see fees that reflect the true value of our shared waters and for those revenues to go to a dedicated fund for good water management, not into general revenues as is currently written.”

Jones concludes, “The WaterWealth Project is proud to share with Her Honour a vision of good stewardship of our shared home waters, so that the water wealth we are privileged with now can be passed to our children undiminished.”

The BC government welcomed feedback from the public on the proposed Water Sustainability Act (WSA) for one month up to November 15, and until December 2 for First Nations. WaterWealth worked to support community members to engage in that process via their WSA Toolkit, in-person support to draft submissions at the WSA Engagement Open House, and a social media campaign to urge participation.

Also this month, WaterWealth has been out in the community at events like the annual Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival, and making presentations to groups such as the Fraser Valley Watershed Coalition and Stó:lō Nation’s People of the River Referrals Office.

To learn more about the work of the WaterWealth Project keep an eye on this website, 'like' our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter.

 

 

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BC's Water Sustainability Act. Some things to think about for folks in the Fraser Valley

skeptical_baby_meme_plain.pngFor the past two weeks the eyebrows at the WaterWealth Project have been raised at the Legislative Proposal by the Provincial Government to update BC’s antiquated water laws. While this is a welcomed investment of government time and resources to bring water laws in BC into the 21st century, the participation of the people who live here, and call the west coast home is essential to ensure that the waters that we all rely on are given the world-class protection that they deserve.

Some things to think about for folks in the Fraser Valley

First thing, we want to acknowledge the positive direction of this legislation to support the emergence of more local control over our home waters. It is positive to see support for the emergence of non-provincial government water governance entities and the call for area-based regulations through watershed management plans. However it is unclear if the government is committed to respecting the rights and title of First Nations. Ensuring First Nations are involved with the due respect they deserve provides an opportunity not only for stronger water policies and more sustainable management practices, but it also prevents the threat of law suits in the future that drain all of us emotionally and financially.

It is also unclear how much support will be offered to ensure the emergence of effective local water management systems until ‘business as usual’ pushes us to a state of crisis. We need to see a stronger commitment to invest in a pro-active approach to build the capacity for local watershed management.

WaterFees.jpgAnother long-awaited development is the regulation of ground-water, which would mean companies like Nestle would finally have to register their water use and pay water user fees. Unfortunately the government is planning to open up shop with out doing a proper inventory. Although the regulation for commercial and industrial groundwater users is welcome, locking them into a licensing system which gives them ongoing access for 30 years or more without another review is not. We need to see a temporary licensing period for existing commercial and industrial groundwater users, where they are mandated to report their water usage, and local science and traditional knowledge from First Nations and domestic water users can help us paint a clear picture of the groundwater resources that exist for the region. There is still much work to be done to understand how groundwater provides for fish habit, fertile lands and ongoing clean drinking water. We need to be able to answer questions like: Is Nestle’s groundwater withdrawal of 265 million litres a year sustainable with the growing drinking water needs of Hope and the reliance on groundwater to cool the surface water of fish spawning ponds?

 

Water User Fees need to make public cents.  An average water bill for a family of 3 in Chilliwack falls around $650 dollars annually, yet a multi-national corporation like Nestle will be able to get away with paying a mere $265 dollars a year, despite the fact that they are taking significantly more water and making millions in profit. We want to see Water User Fees return as an investment into ensuring the waterways are protected. That means raising the rates to ensure water management administrative costs are met, and ensuring that a pool of money is available to support building capacity for stronger local control and participation over water decisions. This means Water User Fees would go into a specially designated fund for Water Programs, not into General Revenue for the Gov’t.

 

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Despite community concerns, Chilliwack Council approves development on Luckakuck Creek

The October 15 council agenda item read; “Zoning Bylaw Amendment Bylaw 2013, No. 3959”

A fairly dry looking agenda item for a creek local residents look to keep from being dried up further.

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The rezoning application is for a proposed development on the current headwaters of Luckakuck Creek.  The application heard at a Council meeting in July was for rezoning from One Family Residential to Townhouse Multi-Family Residential.  In response to concerns of area residents the applicant, developer Larry Les, came back this time with an application for rezoning to Small Lot One Family Residential.  Residents were not appeased.

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A Province-wide Call for our Home Waters

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A watershed moment in BC water governance.

The modernization of the 104-year-old BC Water Act is finally happening. This is in large part thanks to people like you who have made the need to protect our home waters such an ever-present issue in the media, on the streets in the community, and throughout the last provincial election--it has been made clear that the government cannot delay this any longer.

A legislative proposal was released on Friday, October 18, and we now have 4 weeks to provide our comments and feedback. The devil is always in the details and with something as precious as water we can't afford to get this wrong.

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Be Heard! Chilliwack Official Community Plan Needs You!

mt_thom_view.jpgWork on updating Chilliwack's Official Community Plan is nearing its final stages. Results of community surveys and other community engagement activities by the City have consistently shown that residents place protection of water in its various forms and uses among their highest priorities in planning for the community's future. However work is needed to ensure this wide-spread community value is entrenched within the future plans for our home town.

WaterWealth would like to encourage Chilliwack residents to continue to impress upon the City that the health of our home waters is central to our local economy and our quality of life and that the OCP must develop bylaws to ensure our water wealth is protected as it should be.

Some things with regard to water and our community that you might want to bring up:

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