A new recovery investment is aiming to restore watersheds and wetlands throughout B.C., which will also create about 750 jobs.
Through BC's Economic Recovery Plan, $27 million in stimulus funding has been dedicated to roughly 70 watershed and wetland initiatives.
Known as the Healthy Watersheds Initiative, it is part of B.C.'s $10-billion COVID-19 response, and is being administered by the Real Estate Foundation of BC with support from Watersheds BC.
One of the projects identified by Watersheds BC and scheduled for completion by December 2021 is managing water levels on the Endako River, which is about 160 km west of Prince George.
Every year in late summer, hundreds of chinook salmon and kokanee make their way to the Endako River to spawn.
Portions of the river, which flows into the Stellako River near Fraser Lake, have become increasingly low during the summer months, making it difficult for fish to access suitable spawning habitat.
To increase water levels during low flows, the Upper Fraser Fisheries Conservation Alliance and Carrier Sekani First Nations will work with the province, local governments and communities to build a weir on the Endako River's outlet from Burns Lake.
"Investing in watersheds is vital to the continued health of our land and rivers by ensuring our soil is protected and that our fish populations remain healthy," said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
"Through Nation-to-Nation consultation, we're moving forward together on watershed rehabilitation and protection initiatives across the province that support people and build a cleaner, more sustainable future."
BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) will also receive almost 20 per cent of available funds for its Wetlands Workforce Program, set to employ more than 100 people to conserve and restore wetlands in the province.
BCWF will also work to enhance riparian areas, stabilize shorelines through weed management, protect trees and plant native species.
“Through the Healthy Watersheds Initiative, the Wetlands Workforce Program is partnering with Indigenous Communities and Conservation groups to address essential maintenance of riparian habitat across the province. Over the course of the year, 70 wetlands will receive some much-needed care, while monitoring and data collection at these sites will allow us to determine the effectiveness of restoration techniques,” says BCWF Director of Conservation Stewardship, Neil Fletcher, in a release.
“The work we do this year is an opportunity to advance reconciliation among Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities while jump–starting an economy that fully integrates restoration and conservation into the future.”
Although 2021 funding for wetland restoration comes through this one-time stimulus grant, the Water Security Coalition and BCWF are advocating that the provincial and federal create an endowment fund for ongoing water security.