kɬúsx̌nítkʷ (Okanagan Lake) Responsibility Planning Initiative is designed to bring Syilx and non-Syilx partners together to address the cumulative impacts threatening the long-term viability of Okanagan Lake and its ecosystems to provide clean drinking water, habitat for fish and wildlife, erosion and flood control, and contribute to climate change mitigation. The planning process is Syilx led and brings the voices of Elders, youth, knowledge holders, hunters, fishers, and harvesters to articulate and share the Syilx values associated with Okanagan Lake stewardship.
In 2005, a Foreshore Inventory and Mapping (FIM) survey was completed for the central Okanagan and subsequent FIM surveys were conducted for the entire lake in 2009 and 2016. The 2016 survey reported that there had been significant loss of natural shoreline to development, which presented issues for the overall health of Okanagan Lake. Loss of natural shorelines impacts habitat availability for a variety of species, including the populations of sockeye and kokanee salmon which spawn near lakeshores. Natural shorelines also promote the infiltration of runoff into the ground, helping to reduce peak water flow and the probability of flooding. In order to combat the continued loss of natural shorelines, the FIM survey reports identified a need for multi-jurisdictional shoreline management and the development of a Lakeshore Management Plan.
In 2018, representatives from local and regional governments, First Nations, and nongovernmental organizations came together to discuss collaborative ways for improving shoreline management for the protection of natural areas around Okanagan Lake. This working group recognized the need for a multi-jurisdictional approach for identifying and developing best practices for shoreline and upland management as well as the need for formal support from local governments and co-development with Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA). This support was attained by way of resolutions from the ONA Chief and Council (CEC), Mayors and Councils, and Regional Boards of Directors.
Once formal support had been acquired, the coordinating team made the decision to incorporate a traditional Syilx nʕawqnwixʷ planning process in the development of the Okanagan Lake Responsibility Strategy. This consensus-based approach aims to enhance protection measures for Okanagan Lake and ensures future policy recommendations are rooted in Syilx Water Laws.
The kɬúsx̌nítkw (Okanagan Lake) Responsibility Planning Initiative aims to implement a Sylix Water Responsibility Planning Methodology to create new Sylix and non-Sylix engagement and decision-making processes for co-creating a framework for the kɬúsx̌nítkw (Okanagan Lake) Responsibility Strategy. This consensus-based process will bolster protection measures for siwłkw (water) and land and address the cumulative impacts threatening the long- term viability of ecosystems to provide clean drinking water, habitat for fish and wildlife, erosion and flood control and climate change mitigation. This Initiative will also strengthen relationships between Syilx and non-Syilx communities in the Okanagan and increase the influence Syilx Aboriginal Rights and Declarations have on regional environmental policy.
The project’s goal is to change land use planning by creating new decision-making processes, policies, and practices for stronger environmental protection that provide meaningful and lasting change.
In 2021 the project will:
- Analyze the nʕawqnwixʷ workshop series to identify the systemic issues which are blocking sustainable management of the Okanagan watershed
- Coordinate and facilitate an additional 6 engagement workshops with both Syilx and non-Syilx communities
- Present findings to elected officials and Chief and Councils
- Finalize a collaborative communications plan which will increase public awareness for the project and the systemic issues facing Okanagan Lake
- Hire a consultant to draft the kɬúsx̌nítkw (Okanagan Lake) Responsibility Strategy
- Establish subcommittees to develop policy recommendations for the different facets of land-use and water-use planning
- Present the draft kɬúsx̌nítkw (Okanagan Lake) Responsibility Strategy to elected officials and Chief and Council
- Develop of an implementation plan and identify priority projects
- Secure the financial and human resources to carry out 2-3 priority projects
- Conduct on-going project evaluation using qualitative and quantitative metrics
This pilot project will offer new ways for Syilx and non-Syilx partners to work together in co-creating a vision and a framework for a kɬúsx̌nítkw (Okanagan Lake) Responsibility Strategy.
This Syilx planning initiative will provide an opportunity for all the partners to engage in a process that will strengthen protection measures for siwłkw (water) and the land, and will ensure solutions are embedded in Syilx water laws, principles, and practices that value water and the environment as the foundation for sustainability.