Group thirsty to develop Similkameen water strategy

  • Feb. 22, 2011 10:00 a.m.
Similkameen Watershed Project participants: (back row) Walter Despot

Similkameen Watershed Project participants: (back row) Walter Despot

“We’re not going to wait until it’s too late. We’re going to be responsible,” said Princeton Mayor, Randy McLean, regarding the new Similkameen Watershed Project at a recent Similkameen Valley Planning Society (SVPS) meeting. “We want people to work with us.” The new initiative to develop a long-term, science-based watershed management planning strategy for the use, development and protection of water resources has been welcomed by many and misunderstood by others. “There is confusion,” said RDOS Director Area “B”, George Hanson. “There is a belief that the SVPS is the regional district. It is important people realize the SVPS is not the RDOS.” The SVPS is unique in that it is a means of uniting the entire valley. Its directors represent the seven jurisdictions within the valley, all working together for the good of all. This includes the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, the Upper Similkameen Indian Band, Keremeos, Princeton and areas “B”, “G”, and “H”. Keremeos Mayor Walter Despot stressed that when it comes to developing the terms for reference for the new Similkameen Watershed Project all stakeholders and special interest groups within the valley need to be involved. “Everyone should have input in what we’re planning for the next several years or longer,” said Despot. “I see the SVPS as taking the interests of these organizations and looking at the big picture. This will be a long-term living project.” The Similkameen Watershed Project has come about as a direct result of the request of valley residents. The SVPS is acting on the wishes of the valley residents as determined during the 2009-2010 Sustainable Similkameen Project. This was an intense project lasting six months that included over twenty meetings proving information and seeking opinions from the public and community groups to establish priorities for a sustainable socio-cultural, economic and environmental future for the valley. The full report for the Sustainable Similkameen Project is available at the the Village of Keremeos office and the Town of Princeton. It is also available online at http://www.rdosmaps.bc.ca/min_bylaws/planning/SustainableSimilkameenProject/documents/SSS_Final_Report_04_15_10.pdf At 204 pages, the full report takes a lot of reading. The SVPS is planning to print a shorter executive summary of the report and make it available at several locations. Water was one of the important issues that arose from the public consultation process. In many ways it is also one of the most contentious since it affects everyone. “We’re not out to hurt anyone,” stressed McLean. “We’re trying to find out what our capacity is before it’s too late.”