An innovative project promoting co-leadership of water resources by the Province and the Nicola First Nations has a goal of sustainable management and improved health of the Nicola watershed.
The Nicola Watershed Pilot Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Province of British Columbia and the Nicola First Nations, signed today, is an agreement to explore opportunities to engage governments and stakeholders in the management of water in the Nicola watershed.
In recent years, the watershed has experienced complex water management issues related to changes in water quality, water quantity and the health of aquatic ecosystems. The provincial government and the Nicola First Nations have been discussing ways to co-lead a Water Sustainability Act project to identify actions and tools that will address priority water problems.
Using collaboration and innovation, and building on previous work, the Province and the Nicola Chiefs will work in partnership, and through engagement of stakeholders, to sustainably govern water resources in the Nicola watershed for the benefit of future generations.
The primary focus of the project is addressing priority water issues. Key outcomes will be determined jointly and are related to: addressing environmental, economic, social risks and resiliency; building relationships, capacity and knowledge; building whole-of-watershed approaches to water management.
The Province and the BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative are co-funding the project. Impetus for the pilot came from an agreement between the BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative and the Province to explore innovative models for collaborative watershed governance and management.
George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy –
“We know changes are happening in the Nicola watershed and there is a need to develop solutions together. The pilot will build on the work that has been ongoing in the watershed by communities and individuals for a number of years.”
Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development –
“Healthy watersheds are vital to healthy communities and this project will make sure the Nicola watershed is sustainably managed to address drought, while also building new relations with First Nations.”
Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation –
“This is a long-term undertaking that seeks to build a robust collaborative partnership. The MOU demonstrates the government of B.C.’s commitment to true, lasting reconciliation, and to fully adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
Chief Harvey McLeod, Upper Nicola Indian Band –
“I see this partnership as having a huge impact on our relationship with the Province, but more importantly, for ourselves as Indigenous peoples as we become one with our land again. And how will I know the road we’re building is going to lead us down a better path? What are the milestones that we can look to? For the long-term, it’s full co-operation, full involvement, full inclusion in decision-making on how we regulate, and how we take care of the water together. There will be an understanding on both sides.”
Chief Lee Spahan, Coldwater Indian Band –
“Water is of very high cultural importance to members of the Coldwater Indian Band. When it comes to decision-making, we need to be involved, because right now it’s decided by people who don’t live here, who don’t see the issues with water that we see. Through collaboration, we can prevent a lot of these issues.”
Chief Aaron Sumexheltza, Lower Nicola Indian Band –
“Success of this partnership in real terms will be a healthier watershed, a watershed that balances Indigenous rights and interests to water with that of the provincial and federal governments. It will mean working together to resolve the main issues and consider the interests of different stakeholders.”
Tim Morris, project director for the BC Freshwater Legacy Initiative –
“As a funding partner, we are really pleased to support this important partnership between the Nicola First Nations and the Province to advance innovative and collaborative watershed governance in British Columbia. The signing of this MOU represents a new way of approaching water stewardship; one that recognizes how fresh water flows through all aspects of our local economies, ecological wealth, and social well-being. Working with stakeholders throughout the region, this partnership lays the foundation for wide-ranging benefits for all of the communities of the Nicola watershed and a model for the rest of the province.”