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Council gets update on Joseph Creek management plan

Framework to guide future development at Idlewild Lake and Joseph Creek taking shape.

Born out of an effort to investigate funding sources to replace the Idlewild Dam, a plan to support and guide decision makers for Joseph Creek running from Idlewild Lake to the St. Eugene Mission is starting to take shape.

Representatives with the Columbia Outdoor School — formerly the Blue Lake Society — appeared before city council on Monday to provide an update on the Joseph Creek Management Framework — a living document that looks to aid in making sustainable decisions on the Joseph Creek waterway given that there are so many factors and values to consider.

“We’re engaged with the city to develop a management plan for the city and for all of the legislative owners of the creek from stem to stern,” said Todd Hebert, the executive director for the Columbia Outdoor School. “The framework will lay out a plan over the next number of years to bring the creek back int a healthy functioning ecosystem that can support native fish species and many other aquatic species that inhabit alongside the creekside.”

The intent is to establish partnership and community consortiums, a unified water protocol, data analysis, project identification, decision-making models and leveraging opportunities.

“The goal here was to foster a positive constructive, multi-dimensional community partnerships and collaborations, and I think the key word here is collaboration,” said Hebert. “We’ve made several presentations and meetings with our consortium of partners, the initiative partners, project partners and individuals and experts within each of those sectors so we are gathering good solid information. That information is then going to feed into a communication and marketing plan for the overall initiative.”

Partners already on board include the Ktunaxa Nation Council, Aq’am, City of Cranbrook, Regional District of East Kootenay, College of the Rockies and School District 5.

Using data analysis that has broken the creek up into eight sections from the mouth of the St. Mary’s River to headwaters south of Cranbrook, projects will be identified using the framework to identify projects and liaise with consortium members to leverage funding opportunities.

Identified projects include invasive weed identification, riparian enhancement, wetland expansion, historical inventory of data and locations, fish habitat and more.

Currently, the Columbia Outdoor School, through the Joseph Creek Management Framework, is focusing on Idlewild Lake and the surrounding natural and ecological values of the park as the city begins to put a master plan in place.

“Idlewild is one of our greatest focuses right now,” Hebert told council. “We’re hoping with the work that we’re incorporating at Idlewild that this will help us create a blueprint for future work down the creek, looking at native species that we should be planting, looking at seed mixes, looking at prescriptions that some of the biologists will be helping us develop that they will then, with minor adjustments, carry on with down the system. The riparian planting at the lake will be a major, significant component; we’re hoping our first set of trees will be delivered [today or tomorrow], and we’ll be looking at some planting very quickly.”

Using the data analysis sets, the framework hopes to communicate with consortium partners to balance environmental, social, economic and recreational values.

“We have some significant issues around water flow and water quality, so we need to deal with those issues,” said Hebert. “Riparian development is the number one benefit for the entire creek, so we’ll be looking at adjusting the riparian so with more native species along the creek, we’ll be looking at the channelling to make sure that the flows are correct and that the flows are at the right time for the right species, making sure that there are no barriers to fish and other species as well.

“So it’d be ensuring that the stream is flowing correctly and properly so that the fish can make it up from St. Marys River and inhabit the entire creek.”

And there will be lots of opportunity for community involvement, whether from public or private organizations or individuals, as the management framework will be an ongoing guiding document for years to come.

“This is probably a five, ten, 15-year project in reality,” Hebert added. “This is not going to happen overnight. We have a lot of minor projects that have to build upon each other and as time allows, as money allows, as interest allows, those things will continue to grow and expand.

“…There’s lots of opportunity for people to be involved, lots of opportunity to have discussions about what we want, how do we want it to work, and those are the types of things we’re really looking forward to.”

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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