PROJECT AT A GLANCE
- The Mission Creek Restoration Initiative (MCRI) is a multi-phase, multi-stakeholder partnership formed officially in 2008 to restore natural functions to the lower sections of Mission Creek in Kelowna, British Columbia.
- The primary goal is to restore fish and wildlife stocks and habitat. Complementary objectives are to conserve and expand biodiversity and species at risk, to improve flood protection, and to inspire and support community stewardship.
- Project partners include all levels of government (including First Nations) and local nonprofit organizations.
- Funding partners include provincial and local governments, along with the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and the Okanagan Basin Water Board.
Fed by the largest watershed in the Okanagan, and considered the area’s most important waterway, Mission Creek provides one quarter of all water entering Okanagan Lake. Designated a BC Heritage River in 1997, the creek is home to abundant fish and wildlife stocks and several species at risk, including black cottonwood stands, painted turtles, spotted bats, white-throated swifts, western screech owls, and great blue heron.
Since the 1950s, sections of Mission Creek have been channelized and diked to prevent flooding. Ironically, these changes could increase the risk of flooding should the dikes fail or flows breach the banks (as seen in Canmore and Calgary in June 2013). Changes to Mission Creek also caused the loss of more than 60 percent of the creek’s length, 80 percent of its spawning and rearing habitat, and 75 percent of its wetland and riparian areas. The resulting historical, ecological, and recreational impacts are becoming increasingly significant.
In the early 1990s—building on renewed interest in Mission Creek and its social, cultural, environmental, and economic attributes—a local advocacy group called the Friends of Mission Creek kick-started development of the Mission Creek Greenway in partnership with the Regional District of Central Okanagan, City of Kelowna, Central Okanagan Land Trust, and Westbank First Nation.
Access to the creek made possible by the greenway brought even more focus on the need for restoration, as did the province’s commitment to restore the local kokanee population and, therefore, support the sport fishery. In response, a number of feasibility studies were commissioned in the mid-‘90s through the Ministry of Environment’s Okanagan Lake Action Plan.
Report recommendations included:
- Re-establishing the flood plain to reduce flooding and to improve fish and wildlife habitats and populations
- Creating a more natural and meandering creek route
- Establishing a wetland.
These objectives can be achieved over the long term by setting back portions of the dikes on both sides of the creek. This involves:
- Research to identify ideal setbacks (while recognizing existing constraints)
- Studies to determine the best design and habitat enhancement strategies and costs
- Fundraising to cover the costs of property acquisition, project design, implementation, and monitoring.
These priority actions formed the basis of the MCRI.
The MCRI was formalized in 2008 when an MOU was signed and a coordinator hired. The resulting MCRI working group includes representatives from:
VISION & MISSION
Our vision is… “Restoring and protecting Mission Creek to enrich historical, ecological, and recreational values for the Okanagan.” To that end, our mission is to:
- Restore fish and wildlife stocks and habitat
- Conserve and expand biodiversity and protect species at risk
- Improve flood protection
- Inspire and support community stewardship
- Nurture partnerships and secure funds that support Mission Creek restoration.
While Mission Creek flows for about 75 kms across the Okanagan Valley’s uplands, benches, and flood plains, the MCRI focuses on the lower 12 kms from the East Kelowna Bridge to Okanagan Lake. Restoration includes:
- Setting back the dikes to widen the creek
- Re-establishing the floodplain
- Reconnecting remnant oxbows
- Restoring creek banks and planting riparian vegetation
- Creating wetlands and habitat for species at risk
- Maintaining the Mission Creek Greenway and public access to the greenway
- Improving drainage for agricultural land.
In part, Mission Creek restoration will help to:
- Re-establish fish and wildlife habitat
- Increase fish stocks and the local sport fishery
- Expand biodiversity and protect species at risk
- Protect people and property from flooding
- Manage sediment accumulation and disposal
- Inspire and support community stewardship
- Improve water quality
- Enrich recreational opportunities
- Support local agriculture
- Enhance property values.
STAGE 1: Project Planning & Coordination
Stage 1 of the MCRI ran from 2008 to 2013 and included project start-up and coordination, and strategic and implementation planning. Project partners collaborated to achieve the following:
- Identify key setback areas critical to project success
- Initiate an outreach program to landowners whose properties may be affected by the project
- Purchase land required for dike setbacks
- Launch a project website to support fundraising and other public outreach efforts
- Meet with key individuals including local MLAs and MP to build awareness
- Conduct a Mission Creek Channel Width Assessment and an Ecological Goods & Services Assessment
- Raise funding for a dike design study.
STAGE 2: Creek Restoration
Stage 2 is focusing on actual restoration, with Phase 1 being the south side of the Mission Creek between Casorso and Gordon Roads. Proposed Phase 1 activities and timelines are as follows:
- Raise funds (ongoing)
- Acquire properties (ongoing)
- Conduct biophysical baseline assessment (2014)
- Develop concept and detailed engineering plans (2014/2015)
- Introduce concept to the public (2015)
- Develop and implement performance monitoring and measurement parameters (2015)
- Get permits and licenses (2015/2016)
- Begin construction (2016)
Funding to date for project management, technical analyses, and property acquisition has been provided by the following:
- City of Kelowna Mission Creek Habitat Compensation Bank
- Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation
- Okanagan Basin Water Board
- Province of BC.
Additional funding from the public, private, nonprofit, and academic sectors is being sought to support Phase-1 activities on the south side of Mission Creek between Casorso and Gordon Roads. These include:
- Land acquisition
- Ecological and species-at-risk assessments
- Concept planning
- Community outreach
- Detailed engineering
- Dike setback
- Creek restoration