Shuswap Watershed Council receives reply letter from Minister of Environment regarding algal bloom, new commitments made for monitoring and action The Shuswap Watershed Council (SWC) has received a reply directly from Hon. George Heyman, provincial Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
The SWC originally wrote to Minister Heyman in October to relay their concerns about persistent algal blooms that occurred in Salmon Arm Bay in 2022 and in 2020. “We wanted to make sure the Minister was aware of the extent and severity of the algal bloom last
August, and ask for his Ministry to investigate and correct the water quality problems that are impacting Salmon Arm Bay,” said Jay Simpson, Chair of the SWC.
The Minister’s response pointed to a recent assessment by provincial staff of water quality in the Salmon River, the river that flows into Shuswap Lake at Salmon Arm Bay. Although the letter didn’t specify the results of the assessment, it did state that the Ministry will do further investigations about nutrient inputs to the lake – a key factor in the formation of an algal bloom – and it will work to reduce nutrient inputs where possible.
The Shuswap Watershed Council is already well aware of nutrient contributions to the lake via the Salmon River. The SWC worked with a research team from UBC-Okanagan to do a thorough study on this; the results of which showed that agriculture and homes in the valley bottom of the Salmon River are the largest source of nutrient inputs to the river – results that are consistent with other, similar studies across North America. With those results in-hand, the SWC developed a Water Quality Grant Program to provide funds to farms to implement new, improved nutrient management practices that ultimately help to protect water quality. The Minister’s letter also mentioned promotion and enforcement of the Agricultural Environmental Management Code, a provincial regulation that came into effect in 2019 and is being phased in over a number of years, and that aims to ensure agricultural practices are consistent with the protection of clean water and air.
Minister’s Heyman letter also expressed appreciation for work that the SWC has done to educate and inform residents about water quality, and about protection of water quality such as through the SWC’s recently published Phosphorus Action Plan. “Keeping Shuswap Lake pristine will take a combination of educational and regulatory actions. The SWC can do education and provide incentives, but the regulatory and monitoring work is the Province’s mandate,” Simpson says.
The SWC’s letter to Minister Heyman and the Minister’s reply letter can be found on the SWC’s website.