The Elk River Alliance (ERA) is looking back at 2020 as a year of growth and overcoming challenges, heading into 2021 with excitement for upcoming programs and projects.
“2020 was extremely challenging for us – there was a few initiatives that we hoped would be bigger, but I think given the circumstances we did quite well to keep our head above water and keep paddling towards our goals,” said executive director, Chad Hughes.
“We had a couple of decent wins last year, and the car batteries were one of them.”
Over the summer, the ERA pulled 14 car batteries out of the Elk River in an area suspected to have been once used as a dump site near Elkford.
“It’s likely that unless things have cleaned up, we’re going to see more batteries going into the river in the spring, but hopefully we’ll be monitoring that situation and trying to get up there and clean things up.”
The ERA’s weed pulling program also continued throughout 2020, albeit in small groups of volunteers.
Despite the pandemic resulting in the ERA having to cancel both their annual shoreline cleanup event and their summer camp last year, residents were still encouraged to clean the shoreline in small groups, while organizers hope to get the camp back up and running this summer.
According to Hughes, the ERA had planned to do more intensive volunteer water monitoring throughout 2020, however they are happy Morrissey Creek was added to their regular low flow monitoring.
“It fills out our coverage of the valley,” said Hughes.
“We hope to be doing a serious review of that to make sure that it’s linked in with the rest of the Elk Valley water monitoring activities that are going on by government, but industry, and by other groups.”
In 2021, the ERA is hoping to launch a Water Monitoring Collaborative with other players in the valley to create a more holistic and integrated approach to water monitoring that addresses cumulative effects and the concerns of the valley as a whole.
Also in the new year, the ERA hopes to initiate a Cottonwood Forest Conservation and Restoration Strategy group that takes into account everyone in the Elk Valley from industry, to Ktunaxa, to municipalities.
“We’d like to get everyone’s opinion on how cottonwood should be conserved and managed in the valley,” said Hughes, adding that cottonwood throughout the province is endangered.
“We would like to preserve what we have and restore what hasn’t been degraded so far in the hopes that cottonwood would remain a healthy ecosystem in the valley.”
The ERA also undertook a number of structural changes in 2020, with Hughes taking over the role of executive director from Beth Millions. Alongside having recently moved to their new office at 1111 Second Avenue, the non-profit will also be hiring additional staff throughout the upcoming month.
For a more extensive review of 2020’s programs and projects, along with financial information, statistics and figures, the ERA is releasing an annual report in February.
The ERA is also hosting their virtual Annual General Meeting in late February to early March.
For more information on the ERA’s programs, call their new phone number at 250-430-5320 or head to the ERA’s Facebook or website.