Photo by Genevieve Singleton
Photos by Barry Hetschko
Photos by Barry Hetschko
Photo by Genevieve Singleton
Creating a Watershed Plan
The Watershed Plan will be a holistic, whole-of-watershed, Government-to-Government plan; a leading example in the Province of BC. The Watershed Plan will include a Water Sustainability Plan, and also may include recommendations for other Cowichan Tribes and Provincial management, policy, and regulatory actions to address watershed issues that are identified throughout the planning process.
Read about the vision and priorities of Cowichan Tribes and the Province of BC for the watershed here.
Importantly there are two guidance tables that provide recommendations to the G2G table via the Planning Team:
Cowichan Tribes has a Guidance Table that will be comprised of Elders and knowledge holders as well as members from the broader Cowichan community.
A Collaborative Community Advisory Table will also be established by the G2G Table to represent a diverse range of watershed interests (see list of CCAT members here [link to Pdf]. These interests include agriculture, private forest management, community associations, local and regional environmental organizations and projects working on watershed solutions, public health, and recreation.
Coordination and information sharing will take place between advisory tables. These tables are a critical mechanism for developing a plan that reflects community values and priorities.
Alongside the CCAT, there are multiple other ways to be involved in the Planning Process such as topic-specific workstreams organized by the Planning Team to develop and evaluate water and land options.
The watershed Planning Team is comprised of members and staff of Cowichan Tribes as well as staff from the Ministry of Water, Lands & Resource Stewardship, Ministry of Forests and Ministry of Agriculture and Cowichan Watershed Board. This diverse team will be bringing their varied experiences in-and-out of government to ensure that multiple perspectives are considered throughout the planning process.
From left to right (upper row): Rosie Simms, Arlette Malcolm, Cali Melnechenko, Tom Rutherford, Angela Boss, Dana Throne, Devin Sullivan
From left to right (lower row): Maya Guttmann, Natasha Overduin, Larry George, Lana Miller
How We Got to a Watershed Plan: Scoping Phase (2020-2023)
As a first step towards better water management and resilience in the Koksilah Watershed, Cowichan Tribes and the provincial government committed to a scoping process that took place between 2022-2023. A Steering Committee (SC) was struck to oversee this process, with a workplan and a Terms of Reference as defined by an Interim Letter of Agreement between Cowichan Tribes and the Province of BC (FLNRORD). The SC included Cowichan Tribes and Provincial representatives, as well as advisors from POLIS Water Sustainability Project, University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre, Cowichan Watershed Board, the BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative, and BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
Despite the challenges associated with the COVID pandemic, the Steering Committee remained committed to this project, maintaining a bi-weekly meeting schedule without exception.
The SC undertook 3 distinct initiatives that laid the foundation for the Xwulqw’selu Watershed Plan:
Technical Assessment: An external consultant was hired to assess the potential causes of low flows in the Koksilah Watershed and identify technical data gaps through a request for proposal (RFP) process. See report.
Outreach & Engagement: Cowichan Tribes and the Province sought to understand the varied community interests and uses in the Watershed, surface the most urgent issues facing the Watershed, and understand how people in the Watershed might work together towards a shared vision. 13 interviews were conducted with a range of rights holders and interest groups living, working and operating in the Watershed. Close to 300 people also provided input through a public online questionnaire. Results of the interviews and survey were summarized into a set of recommendations for the future planning process. . See report.
Cowichan Tribes Internal Engagement: Cowichan Tribes talked with many of their knowledge holders and members to:
identify technical gaps and probable causes of seasonal drought and flooding issues within the Koksilah watershed;
identify needs and concerns in the Koksilah watershed as they relate to water use;
identify relevant traditional knowledge, use information and goals/objectives of Cowichan Tribes members as they relate to the Koksilah watershed; and
scope the feasibility of a water sustainability plan or other regulatory tools under the WSA to address and achieve Cowichan Tribes goals and objectives in the Koksilah watershed.
The Steering Committee’s scoping process allowed Cowichan Tribes and Provincial representatives to explore a wide range of water and land use topics and build both a common understanding of the issues and challenges facing the watershed and a more informed perspective of the cultural and organizational context of their partners at the table. The Steering Committee learned together through discussions, and from guest speakers including hydrologists, foresters, agrologists, and biologists as well as cultural and governance experts.
The Steering Committee agreed that a Water Sustainability Plan should be developed for the Xwulqw’selu and made consensus recommendations about the key outcomes and priorities for a watershed planning process.
Following Cowichan Tribes and Provincial approval of the Steering Committee's summary and recommendation report, Minister Conroy authorized a Ministerial Order designating the Xwulqw'selu - Koksilah Watershed a water sustainability planning area. This makes the the Xwulqw’selu a first-of-it’s-kind initiative in BC.
This was a significant achievement and a milestone that opened the door to substantial work ahead for the development of a formal Government-to-Government Agreement, and a watershed plan inclusive of a water sustainability plan.
Ist' hwialasmut tu Xwulqw'selu Sta'lo' – We are taking care of the Koksilah River.
"Water Sustainability Plans can go beyond water allocations and allow communities to think about broader watershed health and function and longer-term outcomes beyond management that primarily responds to the crises of drought and flood. They can put in place comprehensive, cumulative, and adaptive management processes to improve watershed governance and deal systematically with root causes—not just symptoms"
Deborah Curran & Oliver M. Brandes