Watershed Conference, Polis Project, February 2, 2014: It was the busiest, most intense four days I have had in a very long time. We had speakers over our short lunch breaks, we had panels of speakers, we had workshops to choose from, and we had so many discussions with the 150 like-minded individuals who were present. It was truly amazing….even though I was pooped at the end of the four very long days.
I wanted to try and produce a report for having had the privilege of attending this important forum. I must begin by thanking CUPE local 401 and the membership for allowing me to attend.
Rita was also sent by Local 401. We pooled ourselves together for the drive to and from Duncan. We also split up some of the preconference events. Rita took on the webinar and I went on the Cowichan Watershed Tour on the Sunday. It began promptly at noon and went through until almost 5:30 p.m. On this tour, we visited the Catalyst Weir, Stotz’s Bluff Restoration Site (truly astounding!), Black Train Bridge on Cowichan Tribal Lands, Flood plain tour and the Cowichan Estuary. We had a well known biologist on Board along with a brilliant young First Nations man, named Tim who sits on the Cowichan Water Board and is hugely involved with both his tribe and the community at large.
The only comment I will make here is that we on the Island have much to worry about with the levels of water up and down the Island. There is no snow pack in the mountains or hills behind Cowichan. The Weir itself is at the lowest level it has been in many, many years. Although Cowichan lake is a huge body of water, until the community can control the weir levels, the fish in the lower stream will continue to be at huge risk of not being able to spawn. Those people on the lake who own lakeshore property and are who are objecting very vociferously to the government about increased rising of water levels that must be done to save the fish spawning grounds, realize that without this piece of our environment…they too could be gone from this earth.
We found we are having to do our battles with not only government…but populations who have only self interest in their hearts.
The Forum had a very large contingent of First Nations involvement. I learned that we must have their involvement if ever we are going to succeed at Governance of our Watersheds. The First Nations knowledge base is huge and I suggest this is the very first thing we must do in our communities is find a way to connect with First Nations and take some lead from them on anything to do with our land and water. Without their involvement, we will all be lost. I know I am going to begin this process in Nanaimo.
Rita and I did our best to not go to the same workshops and rather than report on each workshop I went to and reporting on each of the Panel discussions, the agenda will provide you with the topics of discussion and if you have questions of me, I would be only to pleased to answer them.
In closing, it was a superb forum and again, many thanks to CUPE Local 401 and their membership for allowing me to attend.
June Ross is the Acting Chair of the Vancouver Island Water Watch Coalition and editor of www.vancouverislandwaterwatchcoalition.ca