Consistent regulation of developments along Okanagan Lake sought - InfoNews

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Consistent regulation of developments along Okanagan Lake sought

A peaceful kayak on Okanagan Lake, north of Summerland looking north to Peachland.
Image Credit: Michele Woitzik
July 19, 2019 - 3:00 PM

KELOWNA - A little-known agency is launching a major effort to get all levels of government to do more to protect and enhance Okanagan Lake.

The Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program is trying to get local governments to write a joint strategy for dealing with things like development along the lake, invasive species, fish and parkland.

“The lake is the biggest natural resource we have,” program manager Scott Boswell told iNFOnews.ca. “There are things we can do better to make sure of its long-term protection.”

The goal is not to stop development along the lake as Lake Country senior planner Paul Dupuis hinted at in his report that went to council Tuesday, July 16.

“There is some potential that private property owners may not be supportive of such an initiative as it may be seen by some as restricting an individual’s ability to develop on the foreshore,” he wrote to council under the heading “Unintended Outcomes.”

Certainly, Boswell said, there is some interest in having more consistent development guidelines throughout the valley but the outcome isn’t likely to block new developments.

Besides, his organization can only make recommendations to various levels of government, not enforce them.

What it may do is build bridges that could ward off the types of disputes facing valley residents today.

One example is the current conflict over the province banning the rototilling the invasive Eurasian Milfoil in areas where there are native Rocky Mountain Ridged Mussel.

The federal Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has agreed with the Okanagan Basin Water Board that stopping the rototilling of the milfoil may actually harm the mussel but the province has yet to agree.

Then there is the conflict between residents who want to walk along the lake below the high water mark but are blocked by docks and walls that the province doesn’t seem inclined to control.

“It’s about communications,” Boswell said. “There’s lots of ways to improve communications between the province and local governments and landowners that may benefit the protection of the lake in the long term.”

Other issues could include things like protection of kokanee and developing new parks.

The Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program has been around for 12 years trying to assist local governments and agencies in conservation efforts.

The current project – dubbed the Okanagan Lake Protection Strategy – is in its infancy.

Boswell expects it will take the rest of the summer to get all local governments in the Okanagan to sign on, along with the province, federal government and Okanagan Native Alliance. Then it will take another year to draft terms of reference.

Who will actually sit on and lead the project has yet to be determined.

He also can’t say how long it will take to develop the strategy since it will depend on how in-depth the participants want to go.

 — This story was corrected at 4:14 a.m. Tuesday, July 23, 2019, to say the federal Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans supported the rototilling of milfoil.


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