B.C.’s watershed protection plan needs more funding says Okanagan water board – Okanagan
The Okanagan Basin Water Commission is urging the state to be bolder with its recently announced Basin Security Strategy.
“We are encouraged by the recognition of the importance of healthy watersheds to our state’s well-being, drinking water, the environment and all that we care about,” said Anna Warwick, executive director of the Water Authority. Sears said in a press conference the release.
“It looks like we are taking a big step towards reconciliation with indigenous peoples, and it is all positive. Our biggest question is about funding. We will need more.”
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As proposed, the state will start the new fund with a $100 million contribution, and interest will be used to pay for the project. This equates to approximately $5 million annually.
It also intends to match the initial $100 million fund with federal and philanthropic funds, but the revenues to be distributed are far from what would be needed to implement a strategy of this scale. Yes, Sears said.
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The water authority said its $100 million initial investment would need to be multiplied by at least 10 to make a meaningful impact.
“No matter where the money comes from, we need at least 10x,” Sears said.
During the time of the Forest Renewal BC, which operated in the 1994-95 to 2001-02 budget years, watershed projects received an average of about $66 million annually.
Sears estimates that at nearly $110 million a year in today’s dollars.
“We need to get funding close to that level again. The watershed is worse now and we are even more dependent on its health,” Sears said.
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The organization also proposed four ways the government could better support its objectives.
The first is to help local governments provide water management.
Next is addressing the conflicting ministerial mandates in forestry, mining, rangeland and recreation, while identifying water quality as a top priority.
The Council also wants water supply disputes to be faced directly and openly.
This includes the fact that First Nations are the first water users of BC and that the “First In Time, First In Right” rule within BC’s Water Sustainability Act has been amended to accommodate Indigenous priorities, as well as , including acknowledging that other water needs, including agriculture, are also addressed.
The Board also said a draft implementation plan that addresses capacity requirements at all levels is needed and should be released for review and comment.
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