Do you live around a lake, or love to spend time there? Are you concerned about water quality concerns such as disappearing fish habitat, toxic blue green algae blooms, and the increasing prevalence of invasive plants such as parrots feather and Himalayan blackberry?
The Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society (SMWS) and the Cowichan Community Land Trust (CLT), both long-standing local environmental conservation and stewardship organizations in the Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, are working together on a new initiative called the S-amuna’| Somenos and Kw’amutsun | Quamichan Lakes Clean Water Action project. These important lakes are located in the traditional unceded territory of the Quw’utsun Hwulmuhw (People of the Warm Land), who are part of the culturally and linguistically diverse Coast Salish Nation.
The aim of this initiative is to increase awareness and community engagement around water quality issues and stewardship strategies in and around the urban lakes, and actively work with lake and stream side residents on targeted riparian restoration. This recently launched three year project has received funding from Environment and Climate Change Canada’s EcoAction Community Funding Program, the Loblaw Water Fund, as well as a Grant-in-Aid from the Municipality of North Cowichan.
Water quality in the two local lakes has been a concern for residents since the 1950s. E.coli, septic runoff, sediment, phosphorus and other chemical loading, invasive species, fish habitat degradation, flooding and toxic blue-green algae blooms are ongoing issues for the community. The lakes and tributaries are culturally significant to the Quw’utsun Hwulmuhw, who cherish a long and rich history of relationship with these water ways as sources of food, fibre, canoe transportation, and important community gathering places. The lakes are of great ecological significance as fish and wildlife habitat and hold important recreational value, highlighted by the recent naming of Quamichan Lake as the future home of Rowing Canada’s training facilities.
One of our primary goals is to build awareness with the community that we are all connected to our lakes and watershed systems. Whether we live in the direct vicinity of a lake or not, what we put down our house and storm drains, our gardening and lawn care practices, and how we steward our small creeks and streams all contributes to water quality.
Spring is a great time to be thinking about how our practices in the home and garden impact the water systems we are a part of. Some important practices that everyone can do to benefit local lakes and watersheds regardless of where you live are:
- using biodegradable and phosphate-free soaps and cleaners
- maintaining septic systems and replacing if leaks occur
- maximize porous surfaces that rain water can filter into, which will reduce damaging run off
- properly dispose of yard waste at a recycling facility or by composting
- protecting or planting native riparian buffer zones near water
- protecting wetlands that exist on or around your residence
Some important practices to avoid include:
- leaving manure or compost piles uncovered
- excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides
- dumping chemicals or washing your car near a street drain
- allowing pets or livestock near streams and lake sides
- removing natural debris which creates habitat for wildlife
- harbouring or spreading invasive species
- heavy applications of road salt
A key component of this project offering property visits to landholders of lake or streamside property within the S-amuna’ | Somenos and Kw’amutsun | Quamichan lakes area during the spring and summer. Riparian assessment and recommendations will be provided as well as information about voluntary stewardship agreements. We will also be assessing for potential riparian restoration opportunities, as the scope of this project includes targeted restoration work in its subsequent phases.
We are excited that part of the project activities will also include hosting a LakeKeepers workshop offered by the BC Lake Stewardship Society. This workshop is being planned for July, 2019 and we will be announcing registration details soon.
A Best Practices informational rack card has been developed for this project as well as a survey to help us better understand current community practices and awareness of water quality issues. To contribute to our online survey, please go to one of our two websites for the link. It only takes about 3 minutes and your input is extremely valuable!
If you are a land-holder interested in a site visit, or would like more information about the project please feel free to contact us:
Stephanie Cottell (CLT) firstname.lastname@example.org / 250-746-0227
Paul Fletcher (SMWS) email@example.com / 778-401-8460
From Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society
and Cowichan Community Land Trust