The Swift Current Creek Watershed Stewards (SCCWS) has used the feedback from stakeholders and water users to produce a new report that will guide the organization’s work for the next five years.
The Future Direction report was released on Dec. 7. SCCWS Executive Director Kevin Steinley feels very satisfied with the entire process that was followed to produce the document.
“I feel real good about how it came together,” he told the Prairie Post. “We were a pilot project and we flew off the seat of our pants a little bit, not having done this before. Nobody in Saskatchewan has come up with a similar report or gone through a similar process, none of the watershed groups.”
The SCCWS received funding from the Water Security Agency to consult with stakeholders and to produce this report. The entire process served as a pilot project that can provide a template for other watershed groups in the province to carry out a similar initiative.
“The funding that we've received from the Water Security Agency was to be a template for other groups similar to ours to go through, if they were looking to engage with stakeholders, look at the watershed protection plan for their watershed as well as looking for a way to do a business plan or a work plan for their next five years,” he said. “This was a pilot project for them to follow, and we have presented this information to the other groups already.”
The consultation process to discuss issues and priorities for a healthy watershed started last year. The SCCWS hosted a day-long meeting in Swift Current on Oct. 29, 2019 with stakeholders and users from the Swift Current Creek and Rush Lake Creek watersheds.
The event was attended by approximately 30 stakeholders representing municipalities, industry, government departments and non-governmental organizations. The meeting participants discussed issues of water quality and watershed health. They also reviewed the 2009 Swift Current Creek watershed protection plan to determine if the key actions in this plan were still relevant to the work of the SCCWS.
“I think through this process we found that parts of it are still relevant,” he said. “There's still things that need to be worked on that's still resonate and still are part of our work plan as we go forward. I think what the Future Direction report does is tells us which parts of that watershed protection plan we should be focusing on in the next five years and how we focus on it during that time.”
Stakeholders identified three priority areas for the SCCWS to focus their work on during the next five years. These priorities are the impacts of agriculture on water quality and quantity as well as watershed health, the impacts of extreme climate events and ways to manage these impacts to maximize water resources for all users, and the impact of invasive species on water quality and watershed health.
A technical committee was formed to assist the SCCWS with the production of the report. The committee members represented different industries, government departments and the City of Swift Current, and they have a broad range of expertise in land and water management.
The report includes 11 action items that will be used to guide the SCCWS work plans for the next five years. According to Steinley these action items will assist the SCCWS to implement the principles that were identified by stakeholders in the three priority areas.
For example, the action item to promote agriculture best management practices through participation in agri-environmental programming will help to achieve the goals of the priority to address the impacts of agriculture on water quality and quantity.
Another action item for delivering invasive species programming will further the priority area of improving water quality and watershed health.
The SCCWS planned to release the report at the organization’s annual general meeting in late March, but that meeting did not take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ongoing pandemic situation means such meetings will not take place soon, and the SCCWS therefore decided to go ahead with the formal announcement and release of the report.
“We felt that we kind of sat on the information long enough and would want to get it out to all of the stakeholders within the watershed and also outside the watershed to any potential partners or potential funders just to let them know that it's there,” he said. “One of the things that we right from the start wanted to make sure didn't happen was that this report is printed up in a nice form and then just sits on the shelf.”
One of the key benefits of this report will be to provide the SCCWS with clear direction for the next five years through the three priorities and 11 action items.
“Anytime that we embark on a possible project then we can view it through this lens,” he said. “How does it fit into one of these action items, or if we're applying for funding, we'll look at it and say we need to do this project or we need to look at something in one of the action items, and does the funding that's available work for us to do that.”
Steinley felt the report will be useful during discussions about project funders, because the report will clearly highlight to funders the priorities and actions of the SCCWS.
“That was the plan with this report as well to have something on paper that gives a detailed message about what the Watershed Stewards have done and are looking to do, especially when they say what's your long-range plan,” he noted. “Then we can put this in front of them. Then they can look at it and say yes or no, that's something that they would want to be involved with. And we're not just looking for funding, but we're looking to actually provide some level of service or ecological goods or services for the funding that we're requesting.”
The report identifies a communication strategy as a key action that needs to be implemented to share information with stakeholders.
“I think we'll be using social media more,” he said. “Once we can, we’ll get back to doing some of these workshops and different things, but also trying the one-on-one contact, because in my mind nothing beats those personal connections.”
In the meantime, the SCCWS will welcome any opportunities to meet with stakeholders to discuss this report and the plans for the next five years.
“We've individually sent letters to all of the people or the stakeholders who were at the meeting,” he said. “So they'll be getting that invitation and if there's anybody we hadn't had a chance to send the invitation to, if they contact us, we would be more than willing to talk to them.”
The Future Direction report is available on the redesigned SCCWS website at www.sccws.com/assets/files/SCCWS-FutureDirectionReport.pdf.
Anyone who wants to request a printed or e-mailed copy of the report can contact Kevin Steinley at email@example.com or call 306-770-4607.