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  • Why is the project necessary?
    The development of a long-term, holistic plan is necessary for a variety of reasons. Indigenous Rights: The Xwulqw’selu watershed is essential to Quw’utsun Peoples culturally and spiritually, and also as an important area for fishing, harvesting plants, and hunting. This plan is necessary to respect and protect Indigenous rights and values and ensure Cowichan Tribes has a voice and authority in decision-making. Drought and Flooding: The exceptionally low summer flows in the Koksilah River are threatening the survival of fish species and the aquatic ecosystem as well as Cowichan Tribes rights and practices, the livelihoods of irrigators, and the lifestyle and mental health of all residents. In addition, severe winter flooding and related damage is increasingly common. This plan is necessary to adapt to current impacts which are expected to become more severe with climate change. Better, locally-informed management of water and land: This project is the first of its kind to take a coordinated ‘whole of Watershed’ approach to planning and address Watershed-wide issues with both authority holders, and broad community engagement. This plan is necessary to ensure that water is managed in a way that reflects local values and priorities.
  • Who is making the decisions?
    Cowichan Tribes and the Province of BC share a responsibility to protect the Xwulqw’selu Watershed and will work in partnership to make shared decisions regarding sustainable watershed management. Both parties are committed to developing a long-term plan that ensures a healthy Watershed for those who rely on it now, and for generations to come. Decisions by will be informed by input from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Advisory tables, as well as topic-specific working groups, and other public input.There is an organizational structure on the website that explains who does what and how information and influence flows.
  • What is the scope of the plan? 
    The Government-to-Government table will make informed decisions regarding water and land management options, regional development, laws, policy, governance, and ongoing community involvement. The plan will result in recommendations, leading to both voluntary measures, and legal changes or regulatory actions.
  • Under what legal authorities is this work being done?
    Under the May 2023 Government-to-Government Agreement, each partner (Cowichan Tribes and BC) is an equal authority with distinct laws and responsibilities. This Agreement embeds a commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Under BC’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, BC is required to ensure that all BC laws, including the WSA, are consistent with UNDRIP. Another key piece of legislation referenced in the Agreement is the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) which is the primary law in BC for managing water resources. The law contains a range of tools for water management and protection including Water Sustainability Plans. Managing a watershed is a cross cutting effort that involves these and many other legislative pieces.
  • What is the overall approach/vision?
    Over the next 3 years we will be developing a whole of Watershed plan with a final draft ready by 2026. This plan will reflect Cowichan Tribes’ vision for the watershed as well as provide a template for sustainable water use to support both human needs and ecosystem values while acknowledging the changes to status quo that will be necessary to adapt to climate change. The approach to decision-making will involve clarifying the decision and the objectives, developing a range of options to address those objectives, estimating the consequences of the options, and deliberating about trade-offs and uncertaintiesin order to reach consensus. This approach, when applied formally, is called structured decision-making. For more information,please see the Planning Process Guidance.
  • What has been done so far?
    Discussions, decisions, research, and consultation have been ongoing for at least five years. Key milestones include: Completing a scoping process which made consensus recommendations about the key outcomes and priorities for a Watershed plan (2020-2022), S-xats-thut tst (We Agree) signed by Chief Lydia Hwitsum and Minister Nathan Cullen (2023), and The launch of indigenous and non-indigenous community advisory tables in the fall of 2023.
  • What is the timeline and why is the process expected to take multiple years?
    Though it will take time and hard work to create coherent and collaborative long-term solutions, this plan will ultimately give all watershed residents a more secure water future. The timeline reflects the scope and scale of the work being undertaken - this process is looking at the entire watershed and exploring novel legal questions and options. All stages will require data, analysis, and consultation, and it will take time to get each part right. With this being the first WSP in BC, the process is new, so we are not following a roadmap. Everyone is learning. The process has 5 distinct stages, which can be viewed on the website and in the Planning Process Guidance
  • What are we hoping to get out of this planning process that will make things better for the watershed and the people who live here?
    Building on good science and the collective knowledge of the community, a Water Sustainability Plan will help us prepare for the future, while restoring and rebuilding the Watershed to a healthier condition. The plan willprovide guidance for changes that need to be made in order to ensure a more positive water future for everyone, and improved relationships between neighbours, and between locals and government decision-makers.
  • How are the communities in the watershed being supported in the short-term?
    Though it is recognized that what happens in the short-term has bearing on the long-term, the planning process is focused on long-term solutions, as these will take time to define, research, analyze, consult on, and implement. It is not focused on drought response or other crisis response. An existing Koksilah Low Flows Working Group was establishedby the Provincein 2020 to coordinate drought response and address short-term opportunities and challenges. Additionally, BC ministries, industry associations, and local/regional groups offer a variety of short to near term programs aimed at providing funding and reducing impacts to those experiencing the realities of reduced water availability.For example, BC Dairy and theBC Ministry of Agricultureare offering mental health supports for producers.
  • How are stakeholders and the public being involved?
    The Koksilah Watershed Planning process is designed to ensure community input throughout the project such that difficult conversations around trade-offs and values happen transparently and on the basis of both community and subject matter expertise. Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Advisory tables were created to discuss options and provide input into the Watershed Plan. A monthly newsletter with project updates is also available. If you would like to get involved, please visit the contact page on Koksilahwater.ca.
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