January 30th, 2014

The high capacity wells issue continues:
I heard the Manager of Watershed and Subdivision Planning from the Department of Environment on CBC Radio earlier this morning.  He said the Island could handle “dozens and dozens and dozens” of high capacity wells.

From Betty Howatt of Tryon, a paragon of common sense and care of the land (bold is mine):

Deep wells, fracking draw heritage farm ire
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on January 29, 2014
Since cultivation began on our land around the 1770s, shallow hand-dug wells have provided all needs of man and beast. There was ample water here. I can still show the location of three wells, for watering animals, now not needed, so filled in. A fourth, producing one on our property across the road from us ran dry so a new well was drilled about five years ago.
In 2013 the shallow, hand-dug well that has supplied the needs of our farm and household for the many years Iʼve been fortunate to live here, that well dried up, with another 150- foot well needed.
The farm federation does not speak for this member family. We strongly oppose the granting of permits for deep wells. We also request a permanent moratorium on permits for fracking.
An oversized sandbar, surrounded by salt water, that is our Island, our living space. Think on that.
Betty Howatt, 
Howattʼs Fruit Farm, Tryon

CBC Radio is also talking to a representative from the P.E.I. Potato Board, and from Todd Dupuis from the Atlantic Salmon Federation after the 7AM news, I believe.  His very well thought-out commentary was also in yesterday’s paper (full text at end):

The political panel will also discuss the issue after 7:40AM on the radio.  Presumably they’ll comment on how Environment Minister Sherry has handled this, as Paul MacNeill has written in The Eastern Graphic:

P.E.I. potato industryʼs grab for more water doesnʼt pass smell test
Commentary (The Guardian)
Published on January 29, 2014
By Todd Dupuis 

When it comes to the economy, the P.E.I. potato industry may be a giver; but when it comes to the environment, it is a taker and a big one at that. Donʼt forget that this industry is responsible for millions of tons of topsoil eroding from fields and into our waterways annually. This is the same industry that is responsible for the stinking dead zone anoxic events that happen annually in our estuaries. Itʼs the industry that is responsible for more than 40 pesticide-related fish kills, which happen like clockwork every year, some making national and international news. The industry is responsible for nitrate contamination of our drinking water, an issue that is only getting worse. Every person that drinks water out of his or her tap in Charlottetown is drinking chemical fertilizer.
Thanks to the potato industry, Charlottetownʼs drinking water nitrate level is three to seven times higher (depending on the government data you use) than what is considered normal background level. Remember the cityʼs water supply is in the countryside amidst potato fields. Many people living near the central and western potato belts would give their eye teeth for Charlottetownʼs drinking water, because their water is that much more contaminated. And while the potato industry is the cause of all these environmental issues, it takes no responsibility for cleaning it up. The industry does not have to consider the cost to the environment in its cost of doing business because it is allowed to freely impact the environment. If the industry were required to put the infrastructure in place to protect the environment, it certainly would not be worth 1 billion dollars.
It is no secret that Island soils are degraded from years of industrial potato production. Short rotations and high erosion rates have resulted in shallow topsoil with lower organic matter — not good conditions if you want to hold moisture in the soil. The fact is that our soils are in worse shape today than they were decades ago and there is little indication this trend will change soon. Big industry knows this. The problem is that once it is no longer viable to grow potatoes in the province because of degraded soils, this big industry will move on.
Remember — there is plenty of room to grow potatoes in Idaho and Manitoba. I can hear the industryʼs swan song now: “Thanks for your soil and water but we must be moving on. Sorry for your troubles.” I do not blame the individual farmer.
Like most Islanders, I have friends and acquaintances that are good farmers who are doing their best to be good stewards of the land. Most of them are independent and making their own decisions but, in many cases, the big corporations run the show. The growing of processing potatoes on P.E.I. can be tricky business for our farmers. It goes something like this: “Sign here please. Oh yeah youʼll need to grow what we tell you. You need to add this much fertilizer and by the way youʼll need to buy it all from us. Do what we tell you or else we donʼt buy your product.”
Now big Industry is making a push for more water. A well-orchestrated and well-funded campaign that has come out of the blue is designed to catch Islanders off guard. Thereʼs a new water extraction permitting policy written by a few people in government, seemingly with plenty of industry input. They say they used good science and that P.E.I. has a lot of water. They did not consult with the public though.
Iʼve read the new policy and, although Iʼm not a hydrologist, I do have some training in the field and 30 years of experience walking along and trying to protect Island streams and their fish. While the new policy states there is lots of water, I have lots of questions, as do many others in the conservation field.
I know governments are under pressure from big industry, but this government should not jump into deep-well irrigation until itʼs sure it has consulted with all Islanders and that their best interest is being protected. This government should ensure it is not leaving a legacy of dried-up rivers and contaminated drinking water. If industry and government are so confident in their water data and new water extraction policy, then the government should set up a standing committee so the public will have time to study the science and provide input. Why not let outside experts take a look at it? Why the rush? Remember — this is a new policy that has the potential to impact all Islanders, a policy that has had zero public input. If the science is as sound as industry contends, then let it stand the test. At the moment though, many in P.E.I. think something stinks. It smells like big industry is in the room.
Todd Dupuis is executive director, regional programs for the Atlantic Salmon Federation.

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