Amid the darkest days of winter, the Regional District of North Okanagan is looking ahead to the summer with a new effort to minimize the risks of a future wildfire.
If a significant wildfire were to occur in the Duteau Creek Community Watershed, there would be a high potential for long-term economic, water quality, and water quantity impacts that would affect all Greater Vernon Water customers, the RDNO said in a press release Friday, Dec. 18.
To reduce these risks, the RDNO teamed up with the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC), and contractors to clean up surface fuels, chop down high-risk trees, and burn slash piles on a section of the forest on Blue Nose Mountain in Electoral Area D.
The project, funded by a grant from FESBC, is part of a more extensive watershed wildfire mitigation program being conducted by multiple local governments to protect their water sources from wildfire.
“Controlled burning during the shoulder season can be an important component of wildfire mitigation. said Steve Kozuki, FESBC’s executive director. “By burning woody fuel before a wildfire happens during drought conditions, we can reduce the probability of ignition and also greatly reduce the severity of a wildfire should one get started. We burn a little bit now when it is safe to do so, in order to hopefully avoid a massive fire later.”
“The water that runs through your taps originates far from your home,” added RDNO Water Quality Manager Tricia Brett. “The watershed is a network of water bodies that supply water downstream and is collected by our reservoirs. Our drinking water is affected by everything that happens on the land it travels through before it has to be treated and distributed to customers.
“We must protect the watershed from wildfires since it is our source of drinking water, and a devastating wildfire could mean long-term issues with water quality due to debris and ash filling our reservoirs.”
An assessment was completed earlier this year that mapped out critical work needed to protect local water supply. Greater Vernon Water will continue discussions with the province and with FESBC for continued wildfire mitigation funding.