Over two years after they started, the Upper Souris Watershed Authority has unveiled its much anticipated protection plan.
The plan was unveiled during a ceremony Monday afternoon at City Hall. Members of the USWA and provincial and local politicians were on hand to celebrate the occasion and a document created to preserve and protect the water of southeast Saskatchewan and northern North Dakota.
Among the politicians attending Monday's affair was Dustin Duncan, MLA for Weyburn-Big Muddy and the minister responsible for the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority.
Duncan said the plan, which is the ninth created in Saskatchewan, is a significant achievement for the watershed authority.
"The first step to securing good, clean, quality water is to protect water at its source - in our rivers, our creeks, our reservoirs and our aquifers," said Duncan. "I am proud of the work that is being done to help keep our watersheds healthy and our source water safe."
Duncan noted the plan was a collaborative effort by municipal governments, agriculture producers, business and industry, environmental protection groups and First Nations and Metis Nations peoples.
"The plan being presented here today is the direct result of the hard work done by a group of local people - people who have the drive and knowledge needed to enhance and protect water quality and quantity in their watershed.
"And what I think is really exciting is that together we are working to ensure that Saskatchewan residents hace access to safe reliable, quality water sources and that our children will also have sustainable source water supplies and their children after them, continuing far into the future. The Upper Souris Watershed Association was formed to take on that role."
Work on the plan began in the spring of 2008 with informational meetings held throughout the watershed. A technical committee was formed in the fall of 2008 as were three advisory committees that would look after different areas of the watershed.
Late in 2009, a draft document was compiled and then unveiled to the public during a series of open houses in April of this year.
Vicki East, who was hired as the USWA's watershed co-ordinator in April, said the document they presented Monday has a number of facets including a 40-point action plan that covers everything from water quality, water conservation, research and governance.
"Some of the ones that are specific to right here is the Souris River restoration project," said East. "What we are going to do is try and restore the Souris River right from Boundary Dam all the way to the U.S. border.
"What we have already started is a public participatory geographic information system and what that is we are going to a lot of the historians from the area to tell us the history of the river, when the floods were, when the droughts were, what kind of fish they used to catch. We are going to put it all on the map so we will know exactly what happened along the river and then from that we will be able to figure out where we want to restore the river to and then get a committee and get started."
East admitted it will take "a long time" for the USWA to implement the plan and noted that after five years they will take a look what they have finished and where they need to go in the future.