Environmental concerns shore up

Shoreline disturbance on Okanagan lakes causing concern

As more people move closer to the waters, the environmental disturbance is growing to a point of no-return.

That’s the message Jason Schleppe, Ecoscape Environmental Consulting Ltd., is trying to relay from his studies.

“There’s a rapid state of development occurring,” said Schleppe, a natural resource biologist, who has mapped 4,000 linear kilometres of shoreline in the Okanagan and Shuswap.

“We are at a new era and species extinction are at an all-time high. Changes are happening very rapidly and fish and wildlife can’t adapt.”

A major issue is disturbance, which no one is doing anything about.

“On Okanagan Lake, in 10 days I was there, there easily could have been 150-200 infractions investigated,” said Schleppe. “You see some dramatic losses there’s no returning from.”

Foreshore inventory mapping over the years has allowed people like Schleppe, the Okanagan Basin Water Board and local governments to see the extent of change.

“It allows us to see what’s changing, how it’s changing and what the change means.”

The transition from rural to single family is where the largest disturbance occurs, according to Schleppe.

“We really need to think about transitioning to a lake management plan,” said Schleppe. “Setbacks alone do not ensure protection of all the things we care about.”

Making his case to Vernon city council Monday, Schleppe could not convince Coun. Brian Quiring that residential development has an impact on the environment and the ecosystem.

Meanwhile others applaud the studies and agree that more needs to be done in the way of protection.

“We do have responsible landowners but the problem is many aren’t,” said Coun. Juliette Cunningham, who serves on the OBWB, which she says values the work Schleppe does.

The problem is non-existent enforcement along foreshore, which falls under provincial and federal mandate.

“We see the stuff happening and it’s out of our hands,” said Cunningham, calling for increased resources from B.C. and Canada. “We need to be protecting it for the future.”

Even Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund, a Shuswap Lake lot owner, says that 80 per cent of the properties have altered their shoreline.

Education, said Schleppe, is the key to preservation, and even restoration.