A flood of successes during a year of drought – ERA’s 2015 Annual Report
Fernie, B.C. – 2015 has been a year of contrasts. The Elk River Watershed Alliance’s (ERA) biggest project, the Elk River Flood Solutions Strategy, is occuring ironically during the worst drought in years! “During our 2015 research and flood modelling, these vast contrasts are likely to be the new norm. To plan for climatic events on a scale we have never seen before, we need to work together in the watershed to plan and be prepared for these extremes. Fortunately this is the goal of this Strategy”, says Lee-Anne Walker, ERA Executive Director.
Given the dry hot summer Elk River watershed residents both connected to and showed their love for their water and watershed. The Elkford ATV club hauled out the biggest piece of trash at the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup – a 25 ton bridge north of Elkford. A dozen men from Teck’s ‘Leading for the Future’ training program helped ERA remove weirs blocking fish passage on Coal Creek. Over a hundred Fernie Chrisitan youth, Fernie Secondary School students and community members cleaned up the Elk River shoreline in Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford.
To support the many diverse projects in 2015, ERA raised $260,000 with $50,000 in-kind donations, primarily mapping data, as well as prizes like a handmade bamboo fly rod at Our River Rocks. “These resources coming to the community support contractors, professional services, and locally purchased supplies and equipment”, comments Walker. “We gratefully acknowledge our funders and supporters in our Annual Report”.
ERA’s summer camp was full both weeks with 34 youth age 10-14 discovering the watershed in July and August. The Flood Outreach and Community Education program reached over 1000 people from age 2-82 at special events, library programs and summer recreation camps. ERA partnered for the second year with Teck during Mining Week to reach 332 Grade 7-11 students from 16 classes in the watershed to better understand the importance and challenge of soil sustainability and management during the UN International Year of Soil.
ERA reached year 5 for their community-based water monitoring program on Lizard and Alexander Creeks with Streamkeepers volunteering 122 hours to collect water quality at 8 different sites. “This data collected fills gaps in information on important tributaries to the Elk River and makes the information available to the public, increasing our watershed literacy”, noted Lee-Anne Walker, ERA’s Executive Director. “We also use the data to prioritize collaborative restoration efforts”.
An old African poverb sums up ERA’s approach: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”. ERA is heartend by the effort of Elk River residents, decision makers and industry to work together to solve watershed issues, while protecting watershed resilience and water quality. “For 2016, do one thing everyday to care for our water and pass it on – we all live downstream”, reminds Walker.
Photo below: "Elkford ATV club members hauled out a 25 ton bridge washed off its pilings in the 2013 flood from the Elk River shoreline - likely the largest piece of 'trash' in a waterway in Canada'.