Kelowna receives award for Mission Creek restoration

Image Credit: Contributed

KELOWNA - On Monday, Kelowna City Council will receive details about the recent Species and Ecosystems at Risk Local Government Working Group award given to the City of Kelowna for its involvement in the Mission Creek Restoration Initiative (MCRI).

The Species and Ecosystems at Risk Local Government Working Group (SEAR LGWG) is a collection of 160 municipal, regional and provincial governments interested in joining conservation efforts to protect plants and animals and their habitats. The organization also facilitates discussions across sectors about species and ecosystem protection, and collaborates on species and ecosystems issues.

At a symposium held in Victoria on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, six peer-nominated awards were presented to six local governments that demonstrated exemplary work on Species and Ecosystems at Risk related projects, including one for the City of Kelowna’s involvement with the Mission Creek Restoration Initiative.

“The initiative has been a significant project to restore natural functions to the lower sections of Mission Creek, the Central Okanagan’s most important waterway,” said Todd Cashin, Suburban & Rural Planning Manager. “Officially launched in 2008 and with the main goal to restore fish and wildlife stocks and habitat, the project’s success has been dependent on working with a number of dedicated partners.”

MCRI partners include BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Central Okanagan Land Trust, City of Kelowna, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Friends of Mission Creek, Okanagan Nation Alliance, Regional District of Central Okanagan, and Westbank First Nation.

Over the last six decades, Mission Creek’s ecological integrity has been degraded due to modifications undertaken to improve farmland and prevent flooding. This has adversely affected fish and wildlife and their breeding, rearing and overwintering habitats. For example, annual kokanee stocks have declined dramatically from approximately 1 million fish in the 1940s, to about 30,000 in 1996, and 16,000 in 2010. Other species at risk include Western Screech Owls, Grasshopper Sparrows, Western Painted Turtles, Spotted Bats, Whitethroated Swifts, Black Cottonwood, and Great Blue Heron.

Mission Creek starts 75 kilometres from Okanagan Lake in the mountains South of the city at an elevation of nearly 2,000 metres and supplies about 25 per cent of the water that flows into the lake.

Completed in 2016, the first phase of the MCRI has re-naturalized floodplain function by realigning a 500-metre section of dike on the south side of the creek between Casorso Road and Gordon Drive. Fish and wildlife habitats have also increased by restoring important habitat features including meanders, pools, and overhead cover by enhancing habitat within the expanded floodplain.
As well as restoring fish habitat over time, the dike realignment and resulting floodplain expansion is expected to provide other benefits such as:
·         Reduced erosion and flood risks
·         Enhanced wildlife migration corridors
·         Improved water quality
·         Recharged groundwater supplies
·         Expanded recreational opportunities
·         Increased economic impacts

For more information about the Mission Creek Restoration Initiative, visit www.missioncreek.ca, and for more on the Species and Ecosystems at Risk Local Government Working Group, visit working group’s webpage.


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