The Penticton Indian Band says it is issuing its own fish protection order for Shingle Creek, restricting the use of surface water due to drought.
“As a result of the prolonged summer drought, current flow levels within the system are as low as 0.1 m3/s. This flow is so low that the survival of syilx fish populations are threatened,” said PIB natural resource director James Pepper.
“Current flows are below the Critical Environmental Flow Threshold (CEFT) and PIB is taking immediate steps to preserve what water remains in the system to support fish and environmental flow needs.”
A large part of Shingle Creek runs through the PIB reserve where it joins with the Penticton Channel. The creek originates outside of reserve lands to the west, but the PIB says it is making the order as the “Title and Rights holder responsible for the decision-making of all lands, waters and resources” within its traditional territory.
Elsewhere in B.C., the government has issued similar orders of the own for the Salmon River, Bessette Creek, Tsolum River and the Koksilah River.
The government's own data says Shingle Creek is at a drought level where adverse impacts are "almost certain." The PIB says water flows on Shingle Creek are low enough that they could cause irreversible harm to the stream's aquatic ecosystem.
“PIB Chief and Council recognize the significance of the Shingle Creek watershed for both our community and for our lands, plants and animals. As of this moment we are restricting any and all surface water diversions from Shingle Creek and its tributaries including the irrigation of forage crops and hay production in an effort to support fish and fish habitat,” PIB Chief Greg Gabriel said.
The PIB said their hatchery located next to Shingle Creek does not draw surface water from the system. Both the hatchery and Penticton Indian Band draw water from an underground aquifer.
“In a recent two-year study it has been determined that flows within Shingle Creek are not tied to the use of water from the aquifer. The hatchery is considered an enhancement operation for sockeye and chinook salmon and will actually contribute much needed flows near the mouth of the creek,” the PIB said.
The Penticton Indian Band says it is engaging all water users and actively monitoring the watershed.
“We will do whatever it takes to support our fish” said Chief Gabriel “this order will be in place until rescinded by PIB Chief and Council”.