In 2011, Lee-Anne Walker, a 32-year resident of the Elk Valley, gathered a group of friends, neighbours and other citizens at a coffee shop in Fernie, British Columbia to talk about water quality in the Elk River watershed.
The Fernie Flow (Friends Living on Water) Conversation was intended to connect local residents interested in promoting the health of the Elk River watershed, and to engage them in educational and conservation activities to support that goal.
That modest gathering four years ago grew to become the Elk River Alliance (ERA), an organization that brings together individual citizens, local governments, companies and community groups, with the shared purpose of keeping the Elk River watershed healthy – fishable, drinkable and swimmable – for future generations.
Membership in the ERA includes Teck and local organizations such as Wildsight, the Sparwood Fish and Wildlife Association, and citizens with an interest in river recreation, raft guiding and fly fishing, among other endeavours.
Teck is involved with the ERA because protecting water quality, improving water efficiency and promoting the fair use of water is important. Our focus as a company is on ensuring that we avoid or adequately mitigate effects, and that we avoid impacts on other water users who rely on shared water resources. It is for these reasons – in addition to being the right thing to do as a good neighbour in the Elk Valley – that we are an active participant in the ERA.
Carla Fraser, Manager of Environmental Compliance for our coal business unit, has served on the ERA Board of Directors as an industry representative since its inception. “Understanding and appreciating water quality issues in the Elk Valley is important to Teck, and participating in the ERA helps us do both,” she said. “As a member, we attend board meetings and events to share information and to participate in conversations about community views related to water quality. We also share water quality data that we have collected at our sites to help inform the discussion.”
From 2011 to 2014, Teck contributed approximately $100,000 in funds and in-kind contributions to ERA for mapping support, including use of Teck’s imaging technology and data for assessing ecosystem health in local valleys. In 2014, we provided $20,000 in support of their programming, their camps and their work in the watershed.
ERA members, including Teck, believe that well-managed human activities can ensure both a healthy ecosystem and a robust economy. The ERA uses education to raise awareness and water literacy. Knowing where water comes from and how it is used along with being aware of issues affecting water and stewardship solutions can inform decisions made at the local level to protect and nurture the watershed. The ERA has been instrumental in facilitating community dialogue about water quality in the Elk Valley. This included hosting watershed stewardship summer camps for youth, co-sponsoring Mining Week with Teck in local schools, and sponsoring the annual Elk River Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.
“ERA appreciates our open and honest relationship with Teck and the ability to discuss issues, propose solutions and be respectfully heard. Mining has an impact on the watershed but I feel that Teck is committed to doing what they can to minimize this impact through the use of sustainable mining best practices,” said Lee-Anne Walker, Founder and Executive Director, ERA.
For more information on our progress on water quality, visit Water Quality in the Elk Valley. For more information on the Elk River Alliance, visit www.elkriveralliance.ca.