Planning To Ensure Healthy Future Of Oldman River Basin

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“Through the interviews, we will be able to get a sense of the landowners’ place in watershed, what’s important to them”

Three new initiatives by the Oldman Watershed Council will help prioritize future planning in the Oldman River basin in southeast Alberta. The first is the State of the Watershed Report, which will help members of the council understand the current health of the Oldman River watershed based on data collected from various sources. It is also meant to ensure collaborative and educated decision-making and to identify where future research is required.

At the council’s annual meeting on April 30th at the Galt Museum in Lethbridge, Shane Petry of Fisheries and Oceans Canada said the team members are working with AMEC Earth and Environmental to establish the State of the Watershed Report.

Petry expected a draft to be submitted to the council in early August, with a final report ready on September 1 for acceptance by September 30. The report should be released to the public in October. It will be available in hard copy form and on the council’s website, This assessment of the watershed will feed into a second initiative called the Integrated Watershed Management Plan.

Visioning for this plan began last spring and continues this spring as selected stakeholders will be interviewed by team members Stephanie Palechek and Farrah McFadden during May and June. Focus groups will be held across the watershed in July and August, with a draft report being prepared for September.

While members are aiming for a completion date of December 2009 for the visioning report, the actual Integrated Watershed Management Plan will be a much larger and longer project.

Palecheck, who is the executive director of the Oldman Watershed Council, said the visioning process aims to provide qualitative outcomes to watershed residents to guide future activities and planning.

“Through the interviews, we will be able to get a sense of the landowners’ place in watershed, what’s important to them, what the Oldman Watershed Council should be doing, and where they’d like to see the watershed in 10 to 20 years,” said Palechek.

Furthermore, the Integrated Watershed Management Plan incorporate information from the State of the Watershed Report, as that document will give a good indication of the health of the watershed. “It will show us where some of knowledge gaps are and inform us on where we need to put our priorities,” said Palechek.

Both initiatives are mandated by the Alberta government under its Water for Life strategy, although there are no specific deadlines for completion.

Landowner support

A third initiative of the Oldman Watershed Council is the Watershed Legacy Program. It is a new program, designed as tool to help rural landowners implement best management practices on their land. The idea is provide financial and technical support to the landowners for certain projects. Palechek says there are many members of the council throughout the basin who can lend technical assistance. Some examples of best management practices are offstream watering systems and steam fencing projects.

The Oldman Watershed Council is one of nine Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils (WPAC) in Alberta, with three more under development. WPACs are multi-stakeholder, non-profit organizations that assess the conditions of their watershed and develop plans and activities to address watershed issues under Alberta’s Water for Life strategy.

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