Judy Wickland

Judy Wickland

Water level likely to continue to drop

NANAIMO - Nanaimo River focus of roundtable discussions on watershed health.

In the next 50 years, the water levels in the south Nanaimo and Nanaimo River watersheds are expected to decline by 13 per cent, according to the Nanaimo River Watershed Baseline 2014 report.

These declines are expected alongside other pressures, such as development and population increases.

The Nanaimo River Watershed Roundtable has been gathering research, establishing communication and building trust between different groups. The roundtable includes residents, government representatives, fisheries organizations, forestry companies and others. The group has been working to create a long-term protection strategy for the watershed.

“It’s a quiet, behind-the-scenes initiative that keeps moving forward but doesn’t get a lot of attention,” said Gail Adrienne, executive director of Nanaimo and Area Land Trust.

The roundtable was formed after the land trust held the Nanaimo River Symposium in 2011. It has also been trying to secure property along the Nanaimo River to give residents access.

Adrienne said several properties are for sale and the organization is currently negotiating with TimberWest’s real estate division Couverdon Real Estate. She said the organization hopes to make an announcement next year.

Drought conditions, which led to water restrictions in the City of Nanaimo this summer, affect more than drinking water conditions, such as fish habitat.

Judy Wickland, an environmental educator, said she hasn’t seen the Millstone River this low in years.

At Bowen Park, an expanse of bare rock where water used to flow lays exposed as a small stream babbles nearby.

“Right now, the water is too low for salmon to come up river,” said Wickland, adding the fish don’t usually start returning until the end of October or early November.

This year the City of Nanaimo, the land trust and the Nanaimo River Watershed Roundtable have partnered to host Rivers Day Sept. 27 at the Bowen Park lower picnic shelter from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It includes music, information and interactive booths. From 10-11 a.m. children ages three to six can play aqua charades. Pre-registration is required. The interpretive stream walk and fry trapping is at 11:30 a.m. The land trust hosts a salmon barbecue at noon for $10.

Rivers Day started in British Columbia in 1980 and was an event to bring awareness and clean-up efforts to B.C. waters.

There are also several tours starting at 9 a.m., including Nanaimo River watershed tour, Sept. 25, Morden Colliery Historic Provincial Park, Nanaimo River Regional Park and Nanaimo and Wildplay Adventure Centre tours on Sept. 27.  At 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 27 there is a Nanaimo River estuary walk and a raft tour. Pre-registration is required for all tours by calling 250-756-5200.