Watershed Council Seminar in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk Initiates Municipal Council Project PlanningNews & Program Updates
Over the past four years, the Wild Salmon Center (WSC) and its partners have been sharing information with stakeholders on Sakhalin regarding watershed councils, community-based organizations which represent the varied interests of a watershed's resident population, users, and visitors. People on Sakhalin have expressed the desire to adapt the watershed council concept, which functions in a variety of places worldwide, including the Pacific Northwest USA, Australia and France, for use in Russia. Therefore WSC and its main partner on the island, the Sakhalin Salmon Initiative (SSI) Center, are working to establish five municipality-based councils on the island in 2008. Two councils, based in the Aniva and Smirnihovsk municipalities, have already been created on an informal basis.
On May 22-23, 2008, the SSI Center organized a seminar entitled "Organization of Watershed Council Operations" in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Sakhalin. Approximately twenty people attended, including:
- A working group from the Aniva council, consisting of the region's vice-mayor, a city administration employee, a teacher, a non-profit representative and two fisheries biologists;
- A working group from the Smirnihovsk council, consisting of a city administration employee, a teacher, a commercial fisherman, and a non-profit representative;
- Representatives of three other Sakhalin municipal regions, who will bring information regarding watershed council formation and planning back to their respective regions;
- A representative of the Sakhalin Oblast Duma.
The following speakers presented at the event:
- Sergei Kostarev, director of the NGO "Ecological Committee" in Omsk, Russia;
- Natalie Baker, partnerships manager at International Riverfoundation in Brisbane, Australia;
- Johnny Sundstrom, director of the NGO "Siuslaw Institute" in Deadwood, USA;
- Jeff Uebel, vice-director of Northwest regional fisheries program, USDA Forest Service, Portland, USA.
Nicole Portley of WSC provided facilitation and interpretation.
Sundstrom began the seminar with a motivational talk concerning main themes in watershed council operations: partnership and inclusion. Kostarev followed with a presentation focused upon his own watershed council initiative on the Irtish River in Siberia, within which he successfully applied the Russian Federation water codex and international watershed management experience to the creation and management of a functioning council. Baker followed with an overview of watershed management in Australia and the role of community groups.
Day one of the seminar came to a close with a discussion of the future legal structure of Sakhalin's watershed councils. Several stakeholders gave short speeches presenting their various viewpoints on the issue. The group came to the consensus that watershed councils should be created at the municipal government level through mayoral decrees, and they should include a public organization component: either a new NGO formed for the purpose of coordinating activities and seeking and receiving funds, or a fiscal agent appointed from among the council's members.
The discussion continued on the second day, with Sergey Sedov of the Sakhalin Oblast Duma presenting his ideas regarding raising the watershed councils' status to the Oblast government level through the creation of an Oblast-level body similar to the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board. Potential benefits of this structure include increased authority for watershed councils and potential for government funding of council operations. The group unanimously agreed that steps toward creation of the Oblast-level structure should be taken in 2008, beginning with holding of public hearings at the Sakhalin Oblast Duma in September. Work in this direction will be undertaken simultaneously with the effort to create the five councils on the municipal level.
On the second day, talks by Kostarev and Uebel regarding project planning and watershed assessments paved the way toward a half-day planning exercise. The participants formed two working groups representing the Aniva and Smirnihovsk regions. The groups focused their attention upon 2008 project planning worksheets, which led participants through the process of defining existing problems and developing goals, strategies and means of monitoring effectiveness.
The seminar closed with a description of tentative 2008 project plans:
- The Smirnihovsk council will focus its efforts upon strengthening an existing anti-poaching program on the Langeri River, which consists of community patrols. The council will also support the inception of school field trips focused upon fisheries monitoring that will be run by local fisheries biologists.
- The Aniva council will devote itself toward restoration projects: introduction of gravel into a key spawning section of the Lutoga River and the facilitation of fish passage at culverts. The council will also focus upon children's education and the effort to earn a government distinction for Aniva's high school as an official fisheries professional training school.