Integrated Watershed Management Plans
Flooding, declining water quality, soil erosion, loss of wildlife habitat, streambank erosion, wetland drainage, lack of drought protection and increasing water demand are all common concerns for many watersheds in southern Manitoba. As populations increase, so are demands for access to drinkable water. Development and intense use of areas near watercourses contribute to water contamination and reduce the stability of sensitive river banks. Uncontrolled drainage of fields and wetlands can increase runoff intensity and reduce base flows of streams in dryer months. These things all occur in all watersheds, but to what extent? How concerned should we be? What can we do about it?
The Watershed Approach - A Local Solution
The issues identified above are not singular unrelated problems. They cannot be fixed in isolation. They are symptoms of a larger concern and must be treated as a system. That system is the watershed! Watersheds are defined as areas of land that captures precipitation (i.e. rain, snow melt) and funnels it to a river, lake or stream. It is a community where people, business, agriculture, government, institutions, plants, and animals are interconnected by the common water resource. The community influences the watershed and the watershed influences the community. A watershed is a complex system and to protect its health everyone who has a stake in the watershed may have to make tradeoffs, compromises and maybe even some sacrifices to keep it healthy.
An Integrated Watershed Management Plan is simply an organized way of looking at big picture issues and setting long and short term priorities for improving the watershed. This plan will be holistic and provide a venue where all watershed residents, local municipalities and government agencies can openly discuss watershed concerns and work together to develop long term solutions.
The watershed plan will help set local priorities between need-to-do’s and nice-to-do’s and helps communicate to the public where the work will be done. It also demonstrates to senior governments that local people are in charge of managing their own resources. The plan will help groups like the La Salle Redboine Conservation District set programming agendas and direct limited funds to watershed priorities.
How Does The Planning Process Work?
Under the recently enabled Water Protection Act, the La Salle Redboine Conservation District has been established as Water Planning Authority (WPA). This means that the Conservation District has been assigned the responsibility of preparing and implementing watershed plans for watersheds within the district. This process will be community driven and requires the support, opinions and knowledge of the residents of the watershed and technical information from the Provincial and Federal Government. Resident members and government representatives will form a Water Planning Advisory Team (WPAT) that will debate the issues and provide expertise to the WPA for consideration in the final plan.
Information about the state of the watershed will be collected and presented to all members of the WPAT and WPA. The issues will be identified and reasonable solutions will be recommended. Community consultations will also take place at various times during the planning process in several communities throughout the watershed. At these meetings, information will be provided to the public about the progress of the plan and the state of the watershed. The public is encouraged to provide feedback to the WPAT & WPA for consideration in the final plan. Once all the information has been received, community comments evaluated and the final plan prepared, the recommendations of the plan will be implemented by agencies as indicated.
The watershed plan aims to be completed within a two year time frame. A full scale review of the progress of the plan will also be completed to identify successes, failures and to introduce refinements to ensure the plan is up to date with the needs of the watershed.
Integrated Watershed Management Planning will promote responsible landscape management, provide an opportunity for public dialogue, watershed education, and develop a long term development strategy for watershed resources to achieve a healthy watershed community.