This is the last of four articles for the Our Precious Water series submitted by Living Lakes Canada, the respected Columbia Basin-based water stewardship group that works to monitor and protect Canada’s lakes, rivers, wetlands, and watersheds.
At the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland last week, world leaders announced that water stewardship and climate action must be coordinated to stop the deterioration of the natural environment, which means caring for our local water sources is essential.
Columbia Basin lakes could arguably be considered the heart of many communities. Lakes provide clean drinking water, endless recreational options for tourism, and economic value through lake foreshore property values. Lakes and their surrounding foreshore are also highly sensitive to climate and respond rapidly to change.
As a result, there is a growing concern around the negative impacts of human activities on lake foreshore health, in particular on the sensitive fish and wildlife habitat that lakes provide along their shorelines.
To ensure that lakes in the Basin remain swimmable, drinkable, and fishable for now and into the future, Living Lakes Canada (LLC) is co-ordinating a lake survey project over four years to improve the quality and quantity of information about lake foreshore habitat health and species at risk. The project, which started in 2019, is called “Foreshore Inventory Management Planning for Aquatic Species at Risk in the Columbia Basin”, or more commonly known as “FIMP”.
Using a federal protocol that was first developed in 2005 by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and partners, LLC’s FIMP project has set out to do two things: (1) update the federal protocol and (2) apply or re-apply it to six to eight lakes in the Columbia Basin region to assess the ecological and urban development changes to these lakes’ shorelines.
“People might not be aware that the original FIMP methodology was actually applied to 13 lakes across the Columbia Basin since 2006, and we’re re-surveying some of those lakes with the updated protocol to assess the rates of change,” said Georgia Peck, FIMP Program Manager with LLC.
“The surveys provided in Foreshore Development Guidelines have been used by different communities to regulate shoreline development and protect high value habitats and the lakes’ ecological values.”
The first year of the project focused on updating the FIMP methodology. In 2020, in the second year of the FIMP project, four priority lakes in the East Kootenay were identified and surveyed: Lake Windermere, Moyie Lake, Whiteswan Lake, and Whitetail Lake (Windermere and Moyie Lakes were both re-surveyed). In 2021 for the third year of the project, Slocan Lake and Kootenay Lake in the West Kootenays, and Columbia Lake in the East Kootenay were re-surveyed. The lakes that will be surveyed in 2022 for the final year of the program have not yet been identified.
Information collected from the surveys will be shared with government, First Nations, consultants, developers, environmental stewardship groups and other stakeholders to support evidence-based decision making around the preservation of shorelines, as well as for inclusion in Lake Management Plans and OCPs.
“Lake Management Plans act as a dynamic framework to help guide lake protection and are as unique as the lakes they pertain to,” said Peck.
“But these plans tend to outline goals and objectives that should be met by parties of interest, including local government, First Nations, lake associations, and stewardship groups. The Foreshore Development Guideline Reports (FDG) produced for each FIMP-surveyed lake, which also identify best management practices, can support Lake Management Plans. FDG reports help to recognize effective approaches, jurisdictional challenges, and help strengthen methods for future application.”
Past and present FIMP information is also being stored on the Columbia Basin Water Hub, the online portal for all water-related data in the Basin region that LLC is facilitating. The goal of the Water Hub is to give local decision makers easy access to important water data to help them respond to the impacts of climate change in their watersheds.
To learn more about FIMP, contact Program Manager Georgia Peck at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the project page on the LLC website at livinglakescanada.ca/project/foreshore-inventory-mapping-in-the-columbia-basin or on the Columbia Basin Water Hub at fimp.cbwaterhub.ca.