What it takes: to save the Fraser River Watershed
Updated: Nov 10, 2020
Problem: Rapid impact of climate change and years of neglect are seriously threatening the Fraser River Watershed. I am restating from this Vancouver Sun article.
Why it Matters: At just under 1,400 kilometres, the Fraser is the longest remaining free-flowing river on the Pacific Coast of the Americas, from Alaska to Chile. The Fraser is the most productive salmon-producing watershed on the planet, one of North America’s most biologically diverse regions, the social, economic, and environmental heartland of B.C. and home to nearly three million people.
Solution: The Fraser Watershed Initiative, (FWI) plans to raise half a billion dollars for a 10-year program that will represent one of the most significant watershed restoration efforts in the world. Projects include terrestrial and freshwater restoration, conservation of substantial cultural and recreational areas and preservation of critical habitat.
Change is needed to now stop and reverse the ongoing damage to the river's ecology. This money is important to help make the change happen, and educate all stakeholders as to what is possible.
Ways to raise $500 Million: As of July 2019, I don’t know how the FWI team plan to raise the money. But it is important and I think will be successful.
I suspect that the funds will be raised over time, as this is a 10-year program. So donors, including governments, would be pledging to pay say $50 Million a year for 10 years. The end of this period would likely see all the money spent. Productively I am sure and much would be improved.
What comes after? Assume the above project does make a huge dent in the problem but not everything. I think the next thing to do is to continue to address even more of the issues. A second round of funding may be required. And a third. And maybe more rounds.
What I propose a method is a slow fix, a way to eventually raising ongoing funding using what I call the "Contracted Future Endowment" (CFE) method.
At a high level with the CFE method, the FWI arranges a loan to invest until reaching a target amount.
The target endowment should be $1.25 Billion as then $50 Million can be spent every year forever. No more fundraising or taxes required. However $1.25 Billion is formidably bigger than the $500M needed now so raising $1.25 Billion right away is usually considered out of the question. If we think longer term however, interesting possibilities open up. Here is how.
Start say with a goal of just one-tenth of the target $1.25 Billion, or $125 Million. And don't raise the $125 Million, borrow it. I propose that a consortium of private and public interested parties loans FWI the $125 Million. (All dollars in today’s dollars).
FWI then invests the money in the stock market. Average results show for example that investing in US Stocks investments double in nine years. Once the money doubles to $250M, say in about ten years, the consortiums loan is paid back, without interest and the FWI now has $125M free and clear. If interest is payable, perhaps allow 20 years. Note that in this case the consortium made money! That is quite different than donating money.
After payback, the FWI converts the remaining $125M into a Contracted Future Endowment (CFE).
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has a reasonable and proper requirement to have charitable endowments spend at minimum 3.5% of the total endowment on the charity each supports every year. This is called the Disbursement Quota. The benefit of a CFE is to isolate the savings and growth from the FWI Endowment in a separate corporation where funds may accumulate.
Instead, the investment company managing the CFE funds also owns the funds. The funds are on the investment company's books, and they pay the CRA annual taxes on income and capital gains, like every investor. The FWI endowment has no claim per the contract which permits funds to grow until the money reaches the target, $1.25 B.
After about 50 years from the origination of the CFE contract, the investments reach the target level. The investment company must honour their commitment, and provide $50 Million per year to FWI or it’s successors.
Sure waiting 60 or 70 years before funds start is no quick fix. But it is possible, and could be a great on-going legacy for our generation to provide future generations.
This is not to say money is the answer. Only that changes and prevention can be funded by this means. Not that I have the answers here, leave that to the FWI experts. But....instead of sewage dumped into the river, sophisticated expensive treatment plants can be built. If the first treatment plant versions are not good enough, then spend more to make it even better. Or find a solution that does not require any spillage into the river at all, and fund that solution. Fund research into solutions. Move fish farms out of the river, and fund the extra costs to do so. And so on. A lot of options will be easier if money is available to investigate and implement.
To my knowledge, nothing like this sort of fundraising has ever been done. I think it is time. I plan to help through the work of FutureLegacies.ca
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