The Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB) has approved $300,000 in funding to 18 projects to help conserve and improve the quality of water in the valley.

Directors approved the Water Conservation and Quality Improvement (WCQI) grants at their last board meeting, April 3.  Recipients were notified last week. There were 23 applications with a total ask of $435,180.

A wide variety of projects were funded this year, from engaging private landowners in source water protection, lagoon assessment, irrigation retrofitting, floodplain engagement, creek restoration, as well as hazard and risk assessment to further understand characteristics and morphology of a Creek.

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“This program has such value,” said OBWB chair Tracy Gray, noting that the grants are made available to local governments, but also to schools, stewardship groups, and others  “Solutions are not always government driven. This is a tremendous way to engage others, recognizing that we’re all part of ‘One valley; one water.’”

Another benefit has been the ability for grant recipients to leverage OBWB funding to bring in additional funds for Okanagan water projects, Gray added. Up until the current funding cycle, this has amounted to more than $27.2 million invested in our valley.

Photo: Local teachers with the collection of curriculum units for nature-based education around water themes that follow the new curriculum guidelines. Source: Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program.

North Okanagan
Four projects were funded in the North Okanagan this year, including $14,730 to the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program to build out an Okanagan-based school curriculum on water and work with the Okanagan (syilx) community to include traditional ecological knowledge. “This project represents an important opportunity to broaden water knowledge throughout the valley, by providing a curriculum for teachers to directly educate about water issues and the solutions we are collectively pursuing,” added James Littley, OBWB’s Operations and Grants Manager.

Central Okanagan
In the Central Okanagan, 10 projects were funded. These include $25,000 to the Mission Creek Restoration Initiative to ensure flood protection and wildlife habitat restoration objectives are being met. This multi-year project demonstrates the impact of watercourse restoration and the positive effects it can have on water quality, flood mitigation, sediment control, and habitat enhancement. This project, like similar projects in the valley, help restore ecosystems and create benefits at a fraction of the cost of providing traditional infrastructure.

“The Mission Creek Restoration Initiative has been a shining example of best practices, collaboration, and project management,” Littley added. “Mission Creek accounts for 25 per cent of the water that flows into Okanagan Lake. A healthy, functioning creek is especially critical as we experience droughts and floods. Projects like this can help mitigate the effects of these extreme events.”

South Okanagan
Another four projects were supported in the South Okanagan. One of these was $29,000 to the En’owkin Centre for a floodplain re-engagement project. The project involves reconnecting the Penticton portion of the Okanagan River Channel to 4.83 ha of the river’s adjacent historic floodplain, allowing for natural backwatering as water levels in the main river channel rise and fall. This will include the creation of a seasonal off-channel rearing habitat for Indigenous fish and refuge for juvenile salmon, specifically for sk’lwist/ntytyix (i.e. Chinook Salmon). It will also support Indigenous biodiversity and recovery of species-at-risk, and improve connectivity between rare and endangered floodplain habitats with upland plant habitats.

“I’m really excited about this project,” Littley added. “Reconnecting the river to the floodplain here means so much for the water in terms of conservation and quality improvement, but it is also complementary to the work that the Okanagan Nation and its member bands have been doing to restore salmon and salmon habitat throughout the valley.”

Since the Water Board began awarding WCQI grants in 2006, it has awarded more than $4.1 million to 250 projects throughout the Okanagan.

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