Tsable River Watershed: Cumulative Effects

Tsable River Watershed: Cumulative Effects

Dave Weaver has completed the highly anticipated Watershed Assessment for Cumulative Effects in the Tsable River Watershed. Below is the executive summary followed by a link to the full report. Thank you Dave for all the work you put into this important report!

Background:
This Tsable River Watershed Cumulative Effects (CE) Assessment is the second in a planned series of watershed health assessments undertaken by the Beaufort Watershed Stewards (BWS). The first BWS watershed assessment in 2021 involved four local watersheds (6) and overall concluded one of the four watersheds (Cowie Creek) was at high risk of elevated peak flows. Subsequently, the BWS decided to continue to assess watershed health in 2023, but with a new BC Government protocol: Interim Assessment Protocol for Aquatic Ecosystems in British Columbia – Dec 2020(3) (further referred to as the “Protocol”). This is a more comprehensive procedure than was used in 2021 and includes complete thresholds for six Core Indicators of watershed health. The BWS was further motivated to continue health assessments considering the findings and recommendations of the Forest Practices Boards published special report in 2022 titled: Forest Practices and Water – Opportunities for Action (8). The Board identified several significant issues from this body of work, notably: “There are no legal requirements to assess or consider cumulative effects in most watersheds in BC…and…Current forest practices contribute sediment into streams.”
Methods:
The procedures and thresholds listed in the Protocol for the six Core Indicators metrics (listed below in the table), were followed in this Report, and were determined by using mostly Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology, augmented with vegetation interpretation of 2022 satellite images, and finally verified with 20% ground truthing.


Results:
The following is a Summary Table, listing the six Core Indicators’ final values for this Report (High values are shown in red).

Using the hierarchy process of the CE Protocol and the six Core indicator values identified above, the overall Tsable River watershed rating is HIGH. The implications and recommendations of this rating, as specified in the Protocol are the following: “The watersheds cumulative effects from industrial development have a high potential to negatively impact the natural state of hydrological processes” and “An adjustment to developmental activities should be considered.”

Recommendations:

  1. Encourage other community watershed groups to use this Protocol: All community watershed groups concerned about their local watersheds’ health status, are strongly encouraged to embrace this Protocol.
  2. BWS will plan and perform Cumulative Effects Assessments on other watersheds using this Protocol: Due to the significant findings of this Report, it is recommended that BWS initiate additional assessments on neighboring watersheds, prioritizing those with high sediment levels and those that are > 2000 ha in overall watershed area.
  3. Advocate for reform of the BC Private Managed Forest Land Act (PMFLA) – to lower the rates of harvest and advocate for full implementation of the 2014 BC Watershed Sustainability Act (WSA) watershed planning regulations: This Report clearly shows that hydrological function in the Tsable River watershed has an elevated risk of being negatively impacted by industrial development. The Tsable is managed under the PMFLA which has no restrictions on the rate of harvest and BWS is advocating restrictions be reinstated. Additionally, the WSA has the regulatory authority to mandate watershed planning and BWS is advocating government complete this empowerment by passing these regulations.

To access the full report, click HERE

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