The representative for the Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District has been appointed to another term as chair of the Okanagan Basin Water Board.
At the board’s meeting this week, Stu Wells was elected among the board directors to continue as chair, while Regional District of North Okanagan Regional District rep Rick Fairbairn will serve as vice-chair.
Also serving on the board are RDNO are Juliette Cunningham and Doug Dirk from the RDNO; Keith Fielding, Doug Findlater and Gerry Zimmermann from Regional District of the Central Okanagan; Michael Brydon and Tom Siddon from Regional Distrit of Okanagan South; James Pepper with Okanagan Nation Alliance; Toby Pike of the Water Supply Association of B.C.; and Bernie Bauer, chair of the Okanagan Water Stewardship Council (the technical advisory body to the board).
The water board wants an inspection program to stop invasive mussels.
An infestation of zebra or quagga mussels in Okanagan lakes could cost $43 million annually in added water infrastructure maintenance and lost revenue (e.g. tourism), aquatic biologist Heather Larratt told the board.
This does not include the irreparable ecological damage, she added.
To help prevent the mussels from reaching the Okanagan, the board is sending a letter to the federal and B.C. governments urging an inspection program, similar to ones in the U.S., to stop the spread of this and other invasive species.
The board is asking Okanagan local governments to send similar letters.
Zebra and quagga mussels have been spreading quickly through the east coast of Canada and U.S. and are making their way west, fouling water infrastructure, destroying natural lake ecosystems and costing governments millions each year to manage. Okanagan waters are considered some of the most at risk in B.C.
After two years of meetings with the province to discuss the OBWB’s program for milfoil control and ways to also protect native freshwater mussels, the board is asking for a long-term permit.
The board is forwarding its request to B.C’s Minister of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, recognizing the need for winter rototilling while respecting the economic and social needs of Okanagan citizens and the needs of the environment. The board will be asking Okanagan local governments to also send letters.
Water sharing deal
The board greeted the International Joint Commission’s new Operating Orders for Osoyoos Lake with optimism.
The OBWB was successful in its opposition to guaranteed water flows to the U.S., and wanted a deal that more effectively managed water for residents, agriculture and the environment on both sides of the border. It’s believed a new rule curve for lake level management will address these issues.