A Consensus on Sensitive Streams
The following article is an excerpt from Growing Together newsletter – Winter 2000 issue …….
With eight percent of BC salmon stocks now extinct or at the brink of extinction, the provincial government is taking action to conserve and restore these threatened fish stocks.
The Fish Protection Act outlines a variety of ways to assist dwindling fish populations, including the provision for the provincial government to designate a number of “sensitive streams” throughout the province.
Sensitive stream designation needs careful monitoring.
“Government has made it a priority to protect, conserve and restore at-risk fish populations and their habitats,” said Environment, Lands and Parks Minister Joan Sawicki. “Designating sensitive streams under the Fish Protection Act is an important step in the process for achieving these goals.”
These sensitive streams typically suffer from seasonal low water levels that reduce the numbers of fish returning to spawn.
Recovery plans will be put in place for each sensitive stream in an attempt to increase water levels to more sustainable “fish-friendly” levels.
“Designation provides the opportunity to initiate recovery plans for these streams,” noted Dick Roberts, Executive Director of Regional Operations, BC Ministry of Environment Lands and Parks. “Recovery plans can provide benefits for all stakeholders on the stream, including fish and agriculture.”
Some agriculture producers have expressed concerns that existing water rights on sensitive streams may be withdrawn and that water for fish will have a priority over other uses. In fact, the designation of a sensitive stream does not authorize the withdrawal of existing water rights, but any new applications for water will be reviewed to determine the impact on fish and fish habitat.
The Partnership Committee on Agriculture and the Environment has been working closely with all government ministries and stakeholder groups to ensure that this sensitive stream policy is implemented with an eye toward the specific and cumulative impact on agriculture.
Recently an agreement was reached between the BC Agriculture Council (BCAC) and the provincial government that outlines a set of principles in the implementation of this policy. These principles will help ensure the process for dealing with sensitive streams is fair to all parties and the needs of agriculture producers are addressed in the development and implementation of all sensitive stream recovery plans.
Of particular interest to the BCAC and other agricultural groups are the 2 pilot projects, on Kanaka Creek near Haney/Maple Ridge and Campbell River’s Black Creek, that will serve as the first sensitive stream recovery plans in the province.