k’əmcənitkw Floodplain Re-engagement – Reconnecting the Okanagan River

(k’əmcənitkw pronounced kem-cheh-neet-kwah, and meaning “Alongside the

En’owkin Centre in partnership with the Penticton Indian Band

The En’owkin Centre is recognized internationally as a leader in the field of education, promoting an increased understanding of cultural traditions and ecological literacy among both aboriginal and non-aboriginal communities through hands-on, experienced based education and conservation through the ECOmmunity Place Locatee Lands project.

SnPink’tn (The Penticton Indian Band) represents one of the communities of the Okanagan Nation. SnPink’tn (The Penticton Indian Band) is located on beautiful bench land comprised of three reserves. “We are Syilx who receive our strength from timixw and encompass what is good for our livelihood. We are committed to our language and the teachings of our captiklxw and respect that everyone has value and purpose to come together as one.” (taken from the PIB website).

In addition to the loss of instream habitat, the channelization of the Okanagan River in the 1950’s also contributed to the loss and disconnection of the river to the rich riparian, wetland and floodplain habitats. ONA and En’owkin Centre have re-engaged 12 hectares of the historic floodplain on the ECOmmunity Place Locatee Lands, reconnecting the river to the last remaining contiguous piece of floodplain wetland in the Penticton area for the first time since the 1950s.

The ECOmmunity Place Locatee Lands are home to many species at risk and establishing the floodplain connection will help to re-establish habitat for wildlife including birds, amphibians, reptiles, and culturally significant species like ntytyix, Chinook Salmon Food Chief. Benefits to the South Okanagan region include natural flood protection, salmon spawning viewing, and restoration of fish and wildlife habitat, improved water quality and more.

The k’əmcənitkw Floodplain Re-engagement has created an off-channel rearing backwater area for native fish, particularly Chinook, and Rainbow Trout/Steelhead to offer refuge in high water and food sources during spring, summer, and fall, as well as a wetland for amphibians and waterfowl. In 2021, this project will engage local schools, volunteers and community members to help with Indigenous plant propagation at the En’owkin Centre’s educational greenhouse and nursery facility, and also assist with the habitat restoration of the k’əmcnitkw project site.

The project will complete pre-planting site preparation activities, plant over 50,000 Indigenous trees, shrubs and flowering plants over ~1.4 hectares with project partner staff, K-12 and post-secondary students, community members and volunteers.

This project is continuing and builds on two previous phases in 2018 and 2020. This year 3 was approved by the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Board and $25,000 was allocated from the South Okanagan Conservation Fund in 2021. The South Okanagan Conservation Fund dollars are matching significant confirmed funding from other sources. The project is expected to complete by January 31, 2022.