The Regional District of North Okanagan has completed a wildfire mitigation program in partnership with the Forest Enhancement Society of BC. (RDNO photo)

The Regional District of North Okanagan has completed a wildfire mitigation program in partnership with the Forest Enhancement Society of BC. (RDNO photo)

Collaboration key to protecting Okanagan water supplies from potential wildfires

The region’s four major watershed managers have been doing collaborative work since summer 2019

Collaboration between Okanagan districts has led to a reduced wildfire risk to local water supplies, says the Forest Enhancement Society of British Columbia.

Four major Okanagan water utility providers were awarded close to $68,000 in grants in the summer of 2019, funds that supported a collaborative approach to wildfire risk reduction in the region’s four major watersheds.

The watersheds are managed by the District of Lake Country, the Black Mountain Irrigation District, the Glenmore Ellison Improvement District and the Regional District of North Okanagan.

Work is now underway to protect several high-priority areas of each watershed, according to a Wednesday release (Feb. 10) by the Enhancement Society (FESBC). The project will help protect the Okanagan basin’s water quality while utilizing the woody debris left behind after fuel-clearing activities.

“These projects are an opportunity for good-paying jobs allowing companies like mine to keep people working and to reinvest in the industry, while providing much-needed wildfire risk reduction to communities in B.C. at the same time,” said Burke Nesjan, RPF, Sage Forestry Ltd.

A 2019 analysis mapped potential fuel breaks — an area where flammable woody material is removed to slow or stop a wildfire — in all watersheds and identified the highest priority interface fuel breaks.

READ MORE: Lessons learned from the Christie Mountain fire in Penticton

FESBC funding approval paved the way for partners to collaborate. Overview planning then identified priority areas for more detailed planning, including developing a wildfire risk reduction prescription and obtaining support from BC Wildfire Services.

The District of Lake Country completed treatment operations adjacent to Beaver Lake Lodge and district water intake of Beaver Lake, which involved the removal of surface woody debris from approximately 2.5 hectares.

The Black Mountain Irrigation District provided operational treatment recommendations for Gorman Brothers’ operations on Schram Creek slope and completed a field survey of proposed fuel break locations above Schram Creek slope.

Glenmore Ellison Improvement District completed treatment operations within the interface above Postill Lake Road, and the Regional District of North Okanagan finished interface treatment operations adjacent to Blue Nose trail and is currently doing work adjacent to private property on Blue Nose Road.

“We’re pleased to see the overview plans, which set the stage for longer-term work while addressing some of the highest priority areas with the funding available,” said Dave Conly, RPF, operations manager for FESBC.

Work is expected to wrap up by end of summer 2021.

READ MORE: North Okanagan district completes wildfire mitigation program

Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
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