Discussing priority items at stakeholder meeting

Swift Current Creek Watershed Stewards Executive Director Kevin Steinley speaks during the stakeholder meeting, Oct. 29.

Various stakeholders in the Swift Current Creek watershed received an opportunity to discuss issues and priorities for a healthy watershed.

The Swift Current Creek Watershed Stewards (SCCWS) hosted the stakeholder meeting in Swift Current, Oct. 29.

Stakeholders in water quality and watershed health were invited to participate in the day-long event. Participants evaluated the 62 key action items in the Swift Current Creek watershed protection plan, which was completed 10 years ago.

This was followed by a discussion of issues that stakeholders considered to be of relevance in the watershed at present, which will assist the SCCWS to identify priorities for the next five years.

SCCWS Executive Director Kevin Steinley felt it was a worthwhile meeting that will assist the organization to move forward.

“We've got a lot of feedback,” he said after the meeting. “We brought a lot of people together. I think it was a way to re-engage with a lot of people that we maybe haven't got out to engage with in the past. It provided groups and people some networking opportunities with people that they never had a chance to network and to provide maybe some partnerships and synergies to work with other organizations and partner with them on projects and different things. So I was happy with it. We got a lot of good ideas and a lot of good feedback that we can take and help us in the future.”

The various stakeholders at the meeting included representatives from rural municipalities, the City of Swift Current, the Water Security Agency, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Energy and Resources, energy companies, landowners and producers, and irrigation users.

“We had people from other watersheds and other conservation minded non-governmental organizations here as well,” he noted.

Several issues of importance were identified by participants during the discussions at the stakeholder meeting.

“Probably the biggest thing that most of our producers see is the adaptation and management for some of the extreme climatic events that we see,” he said. “We've been through a lot of different cycles. We've had dry, we've had wet, and can we manage water to balance out those events, to try and help not only agricultural producers but also help the city and towns to manage those issues.”

Another key issue is the implementation of initiatives to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species in the watershed, ranging from invasive plants to zebra mussels and Prussian carp, and awareness programs about these invaders.

“That sort of stuff is also important, because the impacts on the water bodies and ecosystems with these invasive plants, if they get away, can be damaging,” he said.

The SCCWS identified the need for a stakeholder meeting when they held a strategic planning session last fall.

“In that strategic planning exercise, it was identified that we should bring stakeholders together to look at the issues that they see in the watershed,” he explained. “So with that, and it being 10 years since the release of the plan, we decided let's combine to say is the plan still relevant to what we need to do, still relevant to the issues that face the watershed today and then to look with them to get ideas on the issues and everything else within the watershed to help us to move forward to find projects and awareness activities that our group can do to help address the issues that our stakeholders see.”

The SCCWS received funding from the Water Security Agency to organize and host this stakeholder meeting.

“It's a pilot project for some of the other groups in Saskatchewan to do the same thing, to look at their plans and to discuss issues and to set a future direction for them,” he said.

A requirement of this funding is that the SCCWS needs to produce a report on the outcomes of the stakeholder meeting, which must be submitted to the Water Security Agency by March 2020. This report will also be presented at the next SCCWS annual general meeting in the same month.

“We're going to take this information and sit down with a committee and complete a report to give to stakeholders that will then detail the work that we're going to do over the next five years,” he said.

Steinley emphasized the new document will not replace the 10-year-old Swift Current Creek watershed protection plan

“I think that document was a really good snapshot in the time when it was produced,” he said. “It still has a lot of things in it that are applicable and relevant to our watershed and to the Watershed Stewards today. We take out of there what still is relevant in terms of watershed protection, relevant in terms of the work of the Watershed Stewards, and take those and combine with what we heard today and create a new report that we can use as a companion to that report. I don't think it will necessarily replace it, but it will be a companion to the watershed protection plan.”

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