Canadian Okanagan Basin Technical Working Group
The ONAFD initiated the formation of the Canadian Okanagan Basin Technical Working Group (COBTWG) in 1997. Participants to the COBTWG include Okanagan Nation Alliance, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (federal), and the B.C. Ministry of Water, Land, and Air Protection (provincial). The Canadian Okanagan Basin Technical Working Group is a tri-partite working group dealing with technical issues associated with management of salmon and resident fish stocks and their associated habitat requirements in the Canadian portions of the Okanagan River basin. The mandate of the COBTWG is guided by a Terms of Reference that incorporates ‘principles of operation’ and applies ecosystem principles as the foundation for activities undertaken by the working group related to enhancement and restoration of fish stocks and associated habitat in the Okanagan River basin within Canada. For more information, visit the COBTWG website at www.obtwg.ca
Currently the COBTWG is working with Douglas County Public Utility District (DCPUD) from Washington State, to look at options to mitigate uncontrollable losses of juvenile sockeye from downstream migration through the Wells Dam on the Columbia River, by developing the Fish Water Management Tool to provide “fish friendly water flows".
Fish Water Management Tools
The Fish Water Management Tools Project (FWMT) is a state-of-the art computer model developed specifically to help authorities manage water flows in the Okanagan River in a “fish friendly” manner. It was developed and implemented in 2001 through a cooperative venture between the COBTWG and Douglas County Public Utility District. The model benefits kokanee as well as sockeye salmon since water levels in Okanagan Lake are fine tuned at the same time as Okanagan River flows.
The sophisticated FWMT computer model uses real time field data and can quickly predict the benefits and the risks of numerous water storage and release options. These predictions allow a multi-disciplinary team of decision makers to choose the best option for releasing flows in a manner which will benefit fish while respecting the needs of other water users.
Okanagan River Restoration Initiative - Pilot Project
Government agencies and non-government organizations have worked cooperatively to produce a plan to restore portions of the river. Restoration is impractical in many places along the river because of the amount of development that has taken place. In some other areas the slope of the river is too low to be beneficial to the salmon and trout. The strategy consists of accessing key riverside properties, and then moving back existing dykes to allow room for the river to rebuild a meandering channel and fully functional floodplain. Due to the reduced energy in this river system associated with a regulated flow regime, the plan calls for some in-stream works to encourage development of these natural features. For more details on the restoration plan, a copy of the report can be obtained from the MWLAP office in Penticton.
This restoration method has proved successful in many countries and is working well in a short portion of the Okanagan River that was originally constructed with set back dykes. Nevertheless, the concept of relocating existing dykes is untried locally and a limited project has been suggested to showcase the benefits.
The project is supported by an ad-hoc Project Committee with representatives from:
- Okanagan Nation Alliance
- Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- Ministry of Water Land and Air Protection
- The Land Conservancy
- South Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Program
- Okanagan Region Wildlife Heritage Fund Society
Considerable progress has been made to date on the project. As indicated above, a restoration plan has been developed for this section of river. In addition, the committee has identified the key property access priorities within the zone.
US Okanagan Sub - Basin Planning
In 1999 to 2000 the Northwest Power and Conservation Council (NPCC) implemented
a program for to complete comprehensive planning on all tributaries to the Columbia
River. The initial step was to complete a Sub-basin Summary, which identified the
current state of knowledge relating to the sub-basin and to identify limiting factors
and gaps in knowledge. Members of the COBTWG commented on sections of the Okanogan/Okanagan
Sub-Basin Summary that related to the Canadian portion of the sub-basin.
In collaboration with the Colville Confederated Tribes and the Okanagan Nation
Alliance has been providing historic and current technical information and analysis
into the development of the Okanogan/Okanagan Sub-basin Plan, which evolved out
of the summary. The COBTWG will be given opportunity to review and comment on those
sections of the Plan that relate to the Canadian Portion of the Okanagan Basin.
The Okanagan Sub-Basin plan was be completed in May 2004 and will undergo review
by the NPCC Independent Scientific Review Panel. The resulting Sub-Basin plans
will be used as a tool to guide and evaluate fish and wildlife mitigation programs,
proposals and funding over the next 10-15 years.