Comox Valley Project Watershed Society is a registered non-profit environmental society with Canadian charitable tax status focused on sensitive habitat stewardship. The organization is guided by a volunteer board and managed by staff. We are also an active partner of the Comox Valley Conservation Strategy – Community Partnership.
We offer professional conservation mapping and related technical services, host regular Streamkeeper & Wetlandkeeper courses, maintain a stewardship information library, and currently manage research, restoration, assessment, protection and awareness raising projects in the K’ómoks Estuary and Puntledge River Watershed.
We often work in partnership with local stewardship organizations, industry and all levels of government, to meet these goals. For example, we partner with like-minded organizations to maintain offices at the “Comox Valley Conservation Center” at 2356A Rosewall Crescent in Tintown, Courtenay.
“to promote community stewardship of Comox Valley Watersheds through education, information and action”
Stewardship has different meanings for different people. For our purposes, community stewardship means taking personal and collective responsibility for the protection and restoration of our home watersheds and sensitive habitats. It requires long-term commitment from the entire community: its organizations, its businesses, its government agencies and, especially, its citizens. Each person lives in a watershed, each person must take some responsibility to ensure that our watershed heritage is passed on to succeeding generations in good health.
A watershed is inclusive, incorporating not only air, water and the natural resources, but also the human community that lives, breathes, works and drinks within its rain defined boundaries. During our history, we have learned that, in order for the community to take responsibility for clean air, land and water, people of all backgrounds must be encouraged to become involved in local stewardship activities and must be given the support required to make their efforts satisfying and effective.
While the output of Project Watershed’s work will hopefully be the protection and restoration of our local watersheds and associated sensitive habitats, the “process” by which we carry out our objective is also of prime importance. Through involving our fellow citizens in useful work, we hope to foster an enduring relationship between citizens and their watersheds.
Project Watershed’s real work is to bring about a change of attitude.
Purposes of the Society
- to promote community stewardship of every watershed from Oyster River to Deep Bay Creek
- to provide and promote environmental education and research
- to acquire and disseminate environmental information
- to enhance community understanding of local ecosystems and recognition of the requirements of indigenous species
- to improve awareness of local action opportunities in watershed stewardship
- to provide and promote employment opportunities in sustainable watershed activities
- to work with government agencies, private companies and other interest groups to conserve, restore and develop habitat or indigenous fish, flora and fauna
- to create and refine policies and regulations deemed necessary for the society to achieve its objectives
- to raise moneys as required and appropriate
Project Watershed was established in 1993 by a small group of local citizens concerned by declining fish stocks, water quality and rapid urban development in local watersheds. In 1995 they began the Sensitive Habitat Stewardship Program (SHS)- which, while it has changed and evolved over time, still remains the umbrella for all our activities.
The program was designed to gather and disseminate accurate information regarding locations and conditions of sensitive habitats, and to increase public awareness and understanding of local watersheds, the program has spawned many protection and restoration efforts in the Comox Valley. Project Watershed projects developed within the SHS Program have included:
~Comox Valley Stream Signage Project
Some examples are:
- Storm Drain Monitoring (1996-2000): A citizen monitoring program testing storm drains in urban areas.
- Agricultural Program (1997-98): An educational and remedial action campaign aimed at preventing damage to sensitive riparian areas.
- Survey and Education of Businesses (1999): Awareness and remedial work regarding toxic chemical use and disposal. The project included the distribution of educational materials, public workshops, and advertising and promotion for “green” businesses.
- Biofiltration Wetland (1999): Construction of a wetland in a residential area to filter stormwater and septic wastes.
- Pump-out Facilities and Boater Education (1999-2000): In conjunction with community partners, boater pump-out facilities were constructed in Comox Harbour and Deep Bay. A boater education program and celebration of clean water was also a focus.
Included are the following elements:
~ Mapping and Inventory Field Work
Sensitive Habitat Inventory and Mapping: Accurate watercourse, and wetland locations, salmon and trout presence and habitat conditions features of urban streams are mapped using standardized procedures called the SHIM methods. Project Watershed is a founding member of the Community Mapping Network, a group of like minded organizations working to create better opportunities for community stewardship of Sensitive Habitats.
Baynes Sound Foreshore Stewardship (2001-2002): Detailed maps and inventory in Baynes Sound area will provide information to increase protection of sensitive stream, wetland and foreshore habitats, through application of local government bylaws and landowners’ voluntary stewardship commitments.
Urban Salmon Habitat Program Assessments: Fish habitats are assessed using standardized procedures and reports describing watershed problems and recommend remedial efforts. This work results in detailed biophysical descriptions of streams and wetlands that aid in land-use decision making and watershed planning.
~ Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Arcview Smart Maps: Mapping, inventory and assessment data is compiled, digitized and used to update and expand the Comox Valley Sensitive Habitat Atlas, first published in 1995 in conjunction with local, provincial and federal governments. It is estimated that 20-30% of all streams in the valley are not mapped. Of those that are mapped, many habitat records are of limited accuracy. This project provides current, accurate maps and data to decision-makers, citizens, government agencies and volunteer stewardship groups in a user-friendly format. See samples on the Maps and Reports page.
~ Community Partnerships
A network of community mapping and stewardship groups has been developed, along with a protocol for information exchange. The purpose of this activity is to increase public awareness of and involvement in watershed stewardship and to establish a process to recruit new stewards, and to organize their activities in meaningful ways. This fosters a locally coordinated effort that increases information exchange among partners and reduces conflicts and duplication.
~ Landholder Stewardship Projects
A follow-up to initial stream surveys that provides information about habitat and stewardship options to landowners. This project creates an appreciation of the significance of habitats on private land, and wherever possible, to establish voluntary stewardship agreements, in which the landowner agrees to protect, restore and/or monitor the habitats found on their property.
- See Evaluation Report from the 1999-2000 inaugural project year.
- See 2000-2001 year end Report
- See brochures on Maps and Reports page.
~ Entrepreneurial Non-Profit Activities
Partnership projects that build on the training and practical experience that our staff have acquired in the area of watershed stewardship services. We use cost-recovery pricing where appropriate and follow a comprehensive plan to deliver services to the non-profit and private sector providing more stable employment for local watershed technicians.
Project Watershed has piloted numerous important initiatives and is frequently lauded as a role model for community stewardship organizations throughout British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest. Our organization has been recognized with several community achievement awards.