February 15th, 2014

Yesterday’s Guardian story on the Standing Committee meeting with Minister Sherry:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2014-02-14/article-3615107/No-decision-has-been-made-on-deep-well-irrigation%3A-Sherry/1  (full text at end)
It contains an unfortunate error in that the oft-quoted “154 Olympic swimming pools of water is the recharge rate” is listed for a square inch, not kilometre. If it were inch, then perhaps we could support dozens and dozens and dozens of wells, or be waterlogged like poor Great Britain.

I believe, quoting Mr. Raymond another time, it is:

“An Olympic size pool holds 2,500 cubic meters.  The average annual recharge to groundwater on PEI for a square kilometeris ~385,000 cubic meters each year.
385,000 / 2,500 = 154 pools”.

Note that the figure quoted is an average for the entire Island.  I am not sure how extensively they measured across the island to be so absolutely confident of that average.  But taking that number, one can divide the amount by the area to get the total depth that represents and it is 38 cm (or a little over a foot) of “recharge” over any particular point of land over the course of a year. (I think)


CBC has a poll on their website:
“Should the moratorium on deep-water irrigation wells be lifted?”   You can participate here (it is in the middle of the article):


A letter from yesterday:
Thirsty producers always want more
Published on February 14, 2014 in The Guardian
Potato producers wish to drain the water on P.E.I. They are thirsty with greed with no respect for the residents who expect to live off the ground water we already have.
They are selfish. Their own desire for wealth must come first. They are not satisfied with the rain the good Lord sends. That proves their attitude.
No doubt they are in the minority on P.E.I. I am sure most growers using common sense are satisfied. No one can change the weather patterns. Our water is too important to fool with.
Brendon Flood,
South Melville

and the lead article from yesterday, with a few things in bold by me:

No decision has been made on deep-well irrigation: Sherry
by Teresa Wright
published on February 14th, 2014

Environment Minister Janice Sherry, centre, spoke to a committee of MLAs on the issue of deep-well irrigation Thursday. Joining her were the provincial director of environment Jim Young, left, and Bruce Raymond, right, manager of watershed planning for the province.
Environment Minister Janice Sherry says government has made no decisions on deep-well irrigation and the moratorium will not be lifted unless itʼs proven it will not diminish the quantity or quality of P.E.I.ʼs groundwater.

Sherry was in the hot seat Tuesday at a meeting of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry.
She said the question of whether to lift the current moratorium on deep-water wells for irrigation has become a leading issue and that she has received a lot of impassioned feedback from Islanders.
She said she welcomes a “lively debate.”

“As a government, we are listening to what Islanders have to say on this issue. We are listening to what the agricultural industry is telling us,” she said.  “You will hear that we have more than enough water to meet our needs. However, that supply must be carefully monitored and managed, That is the issue when it comes to issuing permits for high-capacity wells.”

The issue has become a topic of heated debate, especially after industry giant Cavendish Farms and the P.E.I. Potato Board mounted a full-scale lobby effort several weeks ago. They are pushing for access to deep-water wells to supply potato fields with water for supplemental irrigation.

But environmental groups are raising serious concern over the impacts large-scale agricultural irrigation could have on P.E.I.ʼs groundwater levels. They also worry about potential nitrate contamination.

The committee meeting Thursday saw a packed crowd of concerned Islanders in attendance — a rare occurrence for the normally empty public gallery of the committee chamber.  A technical briefing was presented about how P.E.I.ʼs groundwater is managed and scientific data about recharge rates, compiled by the Environment Department.  Bruce Raymond, manager of watershed and subdivision planning for the province, said provincial data shows the rate at which P.E.I.ʼs groundwater is replenished every year is quite high.
This recharge rate is equal to 154 Olympic-sized swimming pools for every square inch of the Island, he told the committee.
Raymond also said only seven per cent of water available for extraction within environmental regulations is being used.

But when the time for questions came, Opposition MLAs were mainly interested in the politics of the issue.
Opposition Leader Steven Myers asked Sherry who first suggested the moratorium be lifted.
She said the request came from the potato board. “Whatʼs been told to me by many, many people, too many to think itʼs not true, is that

government went to the potato board and said, ʻHey you should ask for this because weʼll probably give it to youʼ,” Myers said.
“Absolutely not,” Sherry replied.
Agriculture Critic Colin LaVie questioned Sherry on the involvement of the premierʼs former chief of staff, Chris LeClair, and former Liberal MLA Cynthia King. The two were hired to help the potato board lobby in favour of deep-water wells.
He asked whether the Environment Department paid them.
Sherry firmly denied this, saying Cavendish Farms hired LeClair and King to educate people** about high-capacity wells.
“I donʼt have a role to play in that, thatʼs totally a private business hiring someone to provide a service for them. Thatʼs got nothing to do with government,” Sherry said.
“When you talk about educate, is this process already done?” LaVie asked.
Sherry stressed that nothing has gone before cabinet on this issue and that all opinions and data are continuing to be assessed.
“We need informed discussions. We need facts. We need science. We need to build a consensus around this issue and I can assure the members of this committee that the views of all Islanders will be taken into account before a decision is made.”
twright@theguardian.pe.ca Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

**I guess the MLAs getting private meetings are the ones who are getting educated?

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