Mighty Peace Watershed Alliance ensures safe, secure water supply for the Peace River Region

Water Management Technologist, James Proudfoot, speaking on “Water Act Licensing Process.” during the Might Peace Watershed Alliance general meeting at Centre Chevaliers in Falher, January 29.

Tom Henihan
Express Staff

Mighty Peace Watershed Alliance (MPWA) held its January general board meeting at the Centre Chevaliers in Falher on January 29.

Established in 2011, the MPWA has twenty-one directors on its board, representing various stakeholders from across the Peace River region, including various levels of government, NGOs, stewardship groups, First Nations and Métis communities and industry.

MPWA holds between six to eight board meetings annually and they are usually full-day meetings, which the organization likes to rotate holding these meetings throughout the Peace region watershed such as Wabasca, Manning, Grande Prairie, Peace River, Valleyview, Fairview etc.

As the Peace watershed covers 30 percent of the province of Alberta, MPWA sees it as important that the directors have a good understanding of what the variety of areas and concerns are within the watershed.

“We cover the area from Grand Cache up to the northern border,” says MPWA executive director Rhonda Clarke-Gauthier. We’re basically where any land area water drains into the Peace River or the Slave River portion, which is up at the northern border.”

The MPWA falls under the mandate of the Government of Alberta’s “Water for Life Strategy” and the three main goals of that strategy are: making sure that there is safe and secure drinking water, healthy aquatic ecosystems and that there is a reliable quantity of water for economic sustainability.

“We don’t want to limit activities: What we want to do is talk about how we can do these activities in a better way to ensure that our water resource is good quality and good quantity for the purposes that we need water,” says Clarke-Gauthier.

“That why this multi-stakeholder is a not-for-profit organization that comes in contact with people from various sides on their views on water, but we work together and talk together to find the best options to move things forward while protecting our water resource.”

The projects that MPWA does on farmland can depend on the kind of agriculture producer with whom they are working.

Recently for instance, MPWA has done some project work in the County of Grande Prairie, which involves better livestock crossings on rivers to ensure the protection of riparian areas.

“So, we’ve done some work on making sure that instead of livestock wandering through the creek, they can cross over the creek,” says Clarke-Gauthier.

“And we’ve just finished a non-livestock project for equipment that needs to get across a small river, helping them to look at better ways, rather than messing up the creek or causing water not to flow through those areas.”

If agriculture producers want to learn about wetlands and the specifics of the Alberta Wetlands Policy and implement beneficial management practices by following the policy, MPWA can help with education on those matters.

“The livestock crossing is a big one, making sure riparian areas are protected. So we can put producersi n touch with a variety of people to talk about beneficial practices, management practices that they can look at for fertilizer applications and herbicide applications and those kinds of things.”

MPWA works with variety of partners and typically hires consultants and contractors to do a particular piece of work.

In Grande Prairie and West County projects, MPWA worked with Alberta Conservation Association, Cows and Fish Program, the County and Alberta Woodland Extension Society.

“We all worked together to create a plan and organize the project,” says Clarke-Gauthier.

“We will typically take the lead as the Mighty Peace Watershed Alliance and look after the administrative stuff of getting contractors hired and following through on that piece of work to make sure that it is following the plan.”

There is usually a shared cost on these projects and the MPWA tries to find some grant dollars as well.

For some of the work the MPWA has done the organization was able to access some money through the federal government and through the environmental damages fund.

They also get money through the Watershed Restoration and Resiliency Program, through the Cows and Fish Program and sometimes the counties or MDs, and sometimes they look to the landowner.

“What we need to do is find ways that are beneficial and economical for people to participate,”says Clarke-Gauthier.

“So we’ve had some really good conversations with people in various industries and not-for-profit, and we have people who think we should push things further, feeling our initiative hasn’t gone far enough,”

The eight to ten all-day MPWA general meetings held throughout the year reflect the central objective of reaching a consensus between the 21 directors who represent the various interests of the organizations and industries they represent.

The organizations represented by the directors around the table include agriculture, oil and gas, utilities, forestry and those directors are nominated for a two-year term at the Alliance’s AGM, which is held annually in late May.

Listening to the concerns and objectives of each stakeholder is an integral part of the process.

And while not everyone may agree on the way forward, every effort is made to mitigate the concerns of dissenting parties.

At the January MPWA meeting, along with an extensive agenda, guest speaker James Proudfoot, a Water Management Technologist, offered approximately an hour-long presentation on “Water Act Licensing Process.”

Inviting a guest speaker is often a feature of the Alliance’s meetings, and these guest speakers covering a wide variety of topics pertinent to the interests of the MPWA’s board of directors.

The Mighty Peace Watershed Alliance next general meeting is on March 21 and the Alliance’s AGM is on May 24.

For more information on the Mighty Peace Watershed Alliance, visit its website, at: www.mightypeacewatershedalliance.org or call the office at 780-324-3355.


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