KELOWNA - Using Mission Creek as a primary water source Kelowna would be detrimental to the ecosystem, according to a local fisheries group.
Last month, American consulting company Strategic Value Solutions — who was hired by the city — presented their report recommending Kelowna use Mission Creek as its primary source of drinking water.
Mat Hanson, who is on the board of directors for the Okanagan Fisheries Foundation, says increasing use of Mission Creek would ultimately destroy its ecosystem.
“It would be the overall collapse of the ecosystem in order for city council to provide a water solution to Kelowna,” Hanson says.
He says no consultation has been done to determine what impact the water use plan would have on Mission Creek’s ecosystem.
“This is not about supplying clean drinking water, it’s about the City of Kelowna saving money,” Hanson says.
The City of Kelowna has released a statement on the For the Record page on it's website to address the concerns surrounding the creek.
"The City would never do anything to damage Mission Creek or the wildlife that rely on the creek and will be proceeding with the full involvement of relevant ministries and agencies," the statement says.
The letter refers to provincial and federal laws that regulate withdrawing water from creeks in order to ensure the health of the stream.
"That’s the beauty of the 2017 Kelowna Integrated Water Supply Plan – its built-in resiliency and redundancy. If there is a shortfall in Mission Creek for any reason, more water could be drawn from Okanagan Lake or ground water," the City says.
The Okanagan Fisheries Foundation has started an online petition opposing the plan to use Mission Creek as a main water source.
He says on average 20 gigaliters are used from the creek per day, this number would double if the river was used as a main water source.
“Anyone who’s been along the Mission Greenway in August can see the water levels in summer. They’re only just enough to supply water to keep fish and the eggs that are emerging alive,” Hanson says.
At already low levels, Hanson says the project would destroy the kokanee salmon run, and the rainbow trout population that spawn in the creek would also be at risk.
According to the City of Kelowna, annual kokanee stocks have seen a dramatic decline. While there were around one million fish during the 1940s and 30,000 in 1996, as of 2010 these numbers are closer to 16,000. Additionally, the City lists western screech owls, grasshopper sparrows, Western Painted Turtles, Spotted Bats, Whitethroated Swifts, Black Cottonwood, and Great Blue Herons as other at risk species.
The City of Kelowna was just given a Species and Ecosystems at Risk Local Government Working Group award for the Mission Creek Restoration Initiative. The project was aimed at restoring the natural functions of Mission Creek.
“We’re overlooking the reason why so many of us moved to the Okanagan, and that was to enjoy the natural resources and bounty the valley provides,” Hanson says. “We’re on a fast track to becoming the Las Vegas of the Interior at the expense of our environment.”
— This story was updated at 11:44 a.m., Monday, March 20, 2017 to include a statement from the City of Kelowna.
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