Watershed monitoring recommended

Hydrologist Ryan MacDonald and FOLC volunteer Blake Rawson discussing the Lois Creek watershed assessment on a field trip in October 2019.

Ongoing monitoring of the Lois Creek and Kimberley Creek watersheds north of town is one of the best ways to support watershed management decision-making, according to a new web-based report prepared for Mainstreams and Friends of Lois Creek.

Using an innovative story-map format, Ryan MacDonald, principal hydrologist with MacDonald Hydrology Consultants Ltd., said in the report that the future of the watersheds will be driven by overarching factors such as natural disturbance and changes in climate.

“The health of these watersheds will be dictated in large part by decisions made by industry, the city, recreationalists, and other interest groups,” said MacDonald, who pointed out that Lois Creek and Kimberley Creek provide excellent opportunities to develop community-based monitoring networks.

MacDonald recommends monitoring streamflow upstream of the City of Kimberley to obtain data that may prove invaluable in helping to assess flood conditions, respond to land use or natural disturbance, and promote good stewardship. Natural disturbances include wildfire, insect outbreaks, drought, landslides and avalanches, and they all can play a role in shaping the landscape.

The study found that Mountain Pine Beetle, Pine Needle Cast, and Larch Needle Blight have had some impact on the watershed. Almost four kilometres squared in the Kimberley Creek watershed is rated as extreme wildfire risk, while another three kilometres squared is rated as high risk. The level of road development in the Kimberley Creek and Lois Creek watersheds due to past logging and mining operations far exceeds provincial benchmarks. As well, more studies are needed to understand the cumulative effect of land use and climate change.

“Teck has been monitoring water quality parameters for zinc, iron, cadmium and lead at site MY-06 from 1993 to 2020. These samples provide important information about how water quality conditions change over time and if any water quality issues are present in the watershed,” said MacDonald. “The No. 1 Shaft Waste Dump continues to be a source of zinc and cadmium to Lois Creek, and an increase in concentrations since 2015 is believed to be related to issues with bypass from mine-affected water.”

The watershed assessment project was coordinated by Mainstreams, a local water conservation group, on behalf of Friends of Lois Creek (FOLC) with funding from the Columbia Basin Trust Community Initiatives Project administered by the Regional District of East Kootenay. FOLC is a member group of the Kimberley Trails Society, which is working to develop an integrated trail system in and around Kimberley. FOLC and Mainstreams would like to acknowledge the substantial volunteer contributions of Hannah Schaefer and Ryan MacDonald in preparing the report.

View the complete web-based story map:

For more information contact Mainstreams at www.mainstreams.ca

Now is the time to see balsamroot in bloom

by Lyle Grisedale

Every spring we look forward to the blooming of our grassland flowers, especially the balsamroot. When the snow is gone and the first crocus flowers appear, we know that our hillsides and grasslands will soon be ablaze with brilliant yellow balsamroot flowers.

All parts of the balsamroot plant can be eaten. (Lyle Grisedale photo)

Also known as arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), this plant is a member of the aster family. It flourishes on south-facing hillsides and on the grasslands throughout the East Kootenay and the Okanagan.

 The “mother” root can be as big as a person’s forearm and several decades old. (Lyle Grisedale photo)

Balsamroot was an important food crop for members of local First Nations, who looked forward to harvesting it after the long winters when other food sources were still scarce. The roots were pit-cooked for hours and then dried and stored. All parts of balsamroot can be eaten — the leaves can be steamed or eaten raw; the taproots can be dried, roasted or steamed, and the seeds can be eaten raw or pounded for use as a flour. Balsamroot contains an inedible carbohydrate called inulin (a type of soluble fiber found in many plants) that, when cooked, turns to edible fructose.

First Nations peoples managed the crop by never harvesting the “mother” root, which could be as big as a person’s forearm and several decades old. Women always dug the balsamroot with root-digging sticks made of wood or antlers. The preferred size of root to dig was about as big as a carrot. The root also had medicinal uses — it could be boiled to produce resin to be used as a poultice for burns and cuts.

Several rituals were associated with the preparation of balsamroot. One tradition, according to ethnologist James Teit, was for young people to offer a prayer when eating balsamroot for the first time each season.

Be sure to take in the annual balsamroot performance this year.  (Lyle Grisedale photo)

Now is the time to head outside and take in one of Mother Nature’s great performances. See you out there.