The Elk River Alliance (ERA) was started in September 2010 under the leadership of Lee-Anne Walker to increase local knowledge and participation in watershed governance. Lee-Anne has been an Elk Valley resident since 1983 and has over 30 years of experience in local environmental education. She has a deep passion for the place she calls home: the Elk River watershed.
Lee-Anne was motivated to form ERA as the result of the findings from her qualitative research project interviewing 8 community-based water groups and 16 decision-makers in the Columbia Basin region to complete her Royal Roads University Master of Arts in Environment and Management thesis entitled “Community-based Water Monitoring: Bridging Citizens and Decision Makers” (2009).
Allie Dickhout (Master's Candidate River Ecology, Canada Rivers Institue; BSc Environmental Science, University of Victoria) and Ayla Bennett (BSc Earth Science, University of Calgary) became ERA Program Coordinators in 2011. Employing their scientific background and Lee-Anne's passion for community outreach, a community-based water monitoring program was piloted in fall of 2011 on Lizard Creek (west of Fernie). The program continued and expanded to include Alexander Creek (east of Sparwood) in 2012. Volunteers and ERA team now monitor Lizard Creek and Alexander Creek twice a year during high and low flows. Ayla and Allie now coordinate a variety of Elk River Alliance programs.
Elk River Alliance founding Directors were Stella Swanson, John Poirier, Doug Marteinson, Jim Miller, and Carla Fraser, who agreed to sit as Directors at the first ERA Board retreat, raft float September 2011.
As the inaugural Executive Director, Lee-Anne approached Wildsight Elk Valley Branch who enthusiastically acted as the initial sponsor of ERA. For the first 4 years ERA operated as a program of Wildsight; however, ERA became a separate society in 2014 as recommended by the Board of Directors.