Local issues

Reg Volk is a retired teacher who writes a monthly column on politics and local issues. Email him at regvolk@shaw.ca.

The community of Joe Rich, to the southeast of Kelowna, sits smack dab in the middle of the Mission Creek corridor.

Mission Creek rises in the Graystokes Provincial Park area from Mission Lake, and picks up water from at least five other major creeks to form the main, upper stem of this heritage river. 

Yes, it is clearly defined by the province of British Columbia as a heritage river.

Mission Creek then picks up water from numerous other tributaries as it roars down towards Okanagan Lake. 

These include Belgo Creek and Joe Rich creek which are also fed by many tributaries. It is a huge watershed that supplies the majority of water to Okanagan Lake

It is very easy to see that this river’s upper end where Fishhawk Creek enters is in a very dangerous state. Just go to Google Earth and count the number of land slumps where Fishhawk Creek enters into Mission. 

There are a good dozen or more bank slumps, right below plateaus that have been totally clearcut logged.

These, and others further down, are the major sources of damaging, unhealthy, drinking water sediment.

Because these uplands plateaus were substantially and quickly, clearcut logged, the logging companies are now squeezing into the Joe Rich community with little change in logging practices. They are logging in very steep slopes and canyons and still at the headwaters of some creeks.

Drive up Cardinal Creek Road and you will see huge clearcut blocks just above residents’ homes, and wells, that are on steep slopes.

Residents have begun to believe these are disasters just waiting to happen. Cardinal Creek culvert on Highway 33 almost blew out In the last major runoff.

There have also been huge clearcuts right through many community trails.

A couple years back, during spring runoff, little Daves Creek (another Mission tributary) became a raging torrent. It blew out two upper culverts and jammed up the major culvert on Highway 33 resulting in a multi-million-dollar fix. The highway was shut down for at least a month, as was Huckleberry Road.

Shortly after, a huge hunk of Highway 33 blew out just past Philpott Road. 

Then, in another wild Mission Creek runoff, a house was picked up and flushed down the creek with its septic tank, propane tank, and a trailer loaded with chemicals. Any guesses where all this went to?

Yup, Okanagan Lake. 

What happens in Joe Rich does go downstream.

Joe Rich residents are rightly concerned about protecting well water supplies and some heritage for their children. They have negotiated a bit of a moratorium around clearcut logging on Philpott road with Tolko, but other logging companies have refused to co-operate.

The residents have asked, again and again, for any current hydrology studies to be presented to the community with nothing forthcoming. Recently, Black Mountain Irrigation District has also expressed concern with sediment loading of their water that supplies a good chunk of the City of Kelowna.

A small community like Joe Rich and a heritage river watershed like Mission Creek, cannot just be a resource extraction area for industrial logging and mining. 

Their impacts are being dramatically felt and current, global warming is only likely to make it worse.

Did I say mining? Yes Joe Rich is also being inundated with industrial quarries and gravel pits. There are at least half a dozen of them, adding insult to injury.

Recently, one just above the start of Goudie road blew out its banks and flushed debris right out on to Highway 33.

Another rock quarry, mining pit is planned near the infamous Eight Mile hairpin corner which has been the scene of many accidents. 

Loaded trucks would be entering Highway 33 in a dangerous spot. Rock blasting would also occur just below residences on Huckleberry Road. How is this fair to any heritage of this community?

We must all keep sight of the big overall picture of the total Mission Creek watershed and how it is being decimated with industrial activity. 

Many jurisdictions simply do not allow industrial activity in drinking water watersheds. Full stop. The provincial government needs stronger legislation and local governments must ask for it.

Joe Rich residents can protest, write letters, send emails and show the media what is happening. They are. But is way past time for the local and provincial politicians to take direct action.

And to publicly state their position. They must demand at least a slowdown or else a full stop of industrial activity in the major watershed for Okanagan Lake. 

It is the water and recreational heritage of all Central Okanagan residents that is at stake.

Reg Volk is a retired educator who writes on politics and local issues. Email regvolk@shaw.ca.