With the provincial election behind us, we are taking stock of the progress we’ve made in advancing salmon-safe flood management with our Connected Waters campaign. Thousands of kilometers of aging flood control infrastructure block vital salmon habitats in the lower Fraser. We began raising this problem with the provincial government in 2016 and are glad to see not only numerous NDP election commitments on this issue, but also an explicit recommendation from the B.C.’s government’s budget committee.
Prior to the election, the B.C. government announced an investment of $27 million in watershed initiatives and wetland projects, some of which will benefit fish passage in the lower Fraser. This commitment was a direct result of our collaborative Code Blue BC campaign and the work of the BC Watershed Security Coalition. This is another step forward in protecting the lower Fraser and other watersheds for fish and wildlife while putting people back to work and investing in our economy and our communities. That said, there remains a lot of blocked fish habitat out there that needs to be opened up.
Now the election is over and the BC NDP are a majority government, we call on Premier Horgan to make good on his election promises. When it comes to fixing salmon habitat and flood control—two things that are under provincial jurisdiction—here is what we want them to do:
BC NDP Election Commitments and Salmon-Safe Flood Management
1. Commitment: “Protecting B.C.’s salmon populations”…“step up protection of fish habitat through our biodiversity strategy.”
Actions needed: (1) The Province should support lower Fraser Nations and local governments to reconnect critical salmon habitats as part of planned flood infrastructure upgrades. This can be done by adopting a natural flood management strategy to reduce flood risk and improve protection of the floodplain habitat. (2) Update B.C.’s Water Sustainability Act regulations, policies and standards to ensure effectiveness of the biodiversity strategy and the existing flood management technical guidelines to incorporate salmon-safe protocols.
2. Commitment: “Protect clean water in British Columbia by creating a watershed security strategy to plan, manage and protect local watersheds for the public good.
Action needed: (1) Ensure the definition for ‘public good’ includes a water quality standard for all waterways to meet or exceed the standards for swimmable water; (2) ensure the watershed security strategy addresses flood management and salmon habitat restoration in managed floodplains like the lower Fraser; and (3) appoint an independent provincial watershed security officer to advance the strategy and look out for B.C.’s water and watersheds.
3. Commitment: “Creating local projects and jobs protecting water” (including “establish a Watershed Security Fund”).
Action needed: The provincial government should invest in salmon-safe flood control infrastructure and associated habitat restoration projects to support watershed and habitat restoration and job creation in the lower Fraser River. This can be implemented through a new dedicated fund that includes ecological and social objectives, improved criteria in existing infrastructure funding programs, and ensuring the Watershed Security Fund addresses salmon-safe flood control. We also ask that the Province make the Economic Recovery Task Force aware of the multiple benefits of nature-based and fish-friendly flood control solutions.
We will be pushing hard for our provincial government to take meaningful action on these commitments in the coming months.