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B.C. works to protect Okanagan water source from wildfires

B.C. works to protect Okanagan water source from wildfires

VERNON, B.C. – The Government of British Columbia is working with the Regional District of North Okanagan, District of Lake Country and the Okanagan Indian Band to protect the primary water source for Lake Country and the Greater Vernon area from the risk of wildfire.

Through $15 million from the Ministry of Forests, a project team will begin planning and implementing fire-mitigation prescriptions to protect water, water infrastructure and cultural heritage values in the North Aberdeen Plateau, a release said.

Phase one of the multi-year project will begin immediately with fire-mitigation work including removing flammable woody material, thinning or pruning stands, and removing fallen or dead debris in order to slow or stop the spread of wildfire.

“Many people in the Okanagan depend on the North Aberdeen Plateau for their drinking water. We know that the risk of a wildfire in the area could have very real impacts on the water people depend on, which is why we are taking action to protect this resource now and for future generations. Local partners have put in significant work to get us to this point and our government is proud to support getting this important project underway immediately,” said B.C. Minister of Forests Bruce Ralston in a statement.

“As a community that has been recently and historically affected by wildfires, we are intimately aware of the need for more wildfire-mitigation procedures being implemented. While we would like to see more focus on culturally appropriate Syilx wildfire-mitigation practices, we’re happy to collaborate with our project partners to take positive steps toward protecting our land and water. It can’t be understated how important water is as a resource,” Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis added.

The plateau is a water source for 18,000 people and agriculture producers in Lake Country as well as a water source for the Greater Vernon Water Utility, which provides domestic and agricultural water to approximately 71,000 people in Vernon and Coldstream, the release said.

Since 2016, $69.4 million has been invested in wildfire-risk reduction projects through the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC) and an additional $60 million was announced for FESBC to continue industry- and community-focused wildfire-risk reduction and fuel management as part of Budget 2024, the release added.

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