The Village of Silverton Translates Broad Freshwater Concerns into a Focused Problem

Slocan Lake_Rosie Simms

Lessons Learned

  • Local government can play a central role in convening watershed users and driving action
  • Articulating a specific, central water issue can bring clarity and focus to wide-ranging freshwater concerns
  • Local action and leadership can initiate and compel other governments to participate and support efforts.

Detailed Overview

In 2016, the Village of Silverton’s concerns about the health of the Slocan watershed were mounting: old growth logging was occurring near the Village’s drinking water source (which was entirely untreated), recreational activities like heliskiing were taking place in sensitive alpine environments, and there was minimal enforcement of the regulations that dictate the types of structures that can be built in sensitive zones around lake foreshores.

Many water-related initiatives have taken place in and around Silverton, including community-based water monitoring, wetland restoration, education programs, eco-asset mapping and management, and a Slocan Science Forum that brought together the available science about the watershed. Despite these gains and the efforts of community water champions, it was unclear how to accelerate legal protections for the watershed. In the spring of 2016, the Village of Silverton convened a Watershed Governance workshop to bring together water advocates, watershed users, and local decision-makers to start to address these concerns together.

In the Watershed Governance workshop, the group worked through the Stepping Stones concept and considered self-assessment questions (many of which are included in this Handbook) to analyze where they had come from, what partnerships were working well, what gaps still existed, and how the issues they were concerned about might manifest in their waters. The workshop discussion revealed one central opportunity to address watershed health concerns: 60-90% of a population of a blue-listed trout species use the local Silverton Creek for spawning habitat, but this habitat is afforded almost no protections. Protecting Silverton Creek fish spawning habitat offered an entry point to water governance and became a central goal. Translating broad water concerns into one clear, urgent problem meant that some specific legal tools (e.g., habitat protection area designations) are available to increase protections for the stream. In 2018, the Village of Silverton was in the midst of working with the Regional District of Central Kootenay and the B.C. provincial government to further investigate how these tools can be utilized. Silverton’s enthusiasm and leadership for this issue is also catalyzing conversations among regional government staff about improving watershed planning and management.