Standing Committee’s Report

The Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry’s report to the P.E.I.Legislature from November 2014 is here:
http://www.assembly.pe.ca/sittings/2014fall/reports/11_2014-19-11-report.pdf


Here, by the way, is what is said about the Water Act in the Speech from the Throne, which was read on November 12th, 2014.  I know the Premier retreated the next day, and most elected officials in government are shrugging and saying, “The new Premier will have to decide” about pretty much everything, but folks behind the microphones are obviously still going to their offices and working on projects and policies.

from The Speech from the Throne, text here:
http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/original/SFT_E_11_14.pdf

page 14:
Safeguarding Our Environment

Our environment has an impact on the quality of life and health of
every Islander. More than in any other province, our economic success is
founded on healthy soils, clear air and clean water, healthy and diverse ecosystems,
and the beauty of of our landscape.

<<snip>>

 page 16:

Water matters to every Islander and our agricultural industry needs
clarity regarding its access to our water resource. To ensure both water
quality and water quantity for the long term, My Government will
undertake a thorough and careful process to develop a
Water Act for our province beginning with a public consultation process in the
coming months, and cross jurisdictional analysis.
The proposed Water Act will consolidate water-related legislation,
regulate the use of surface and groundwater, allocate water in times of
scarcity, protect streams, rivers and related aquatic environments, and
ensure water quality and quantity. Our goal is to regulate water use in a manner
respects human needs while safeguarding the environment.

Letter re: Water Act for PEI

Legislation needs to ensure, protect water quality; improve health of watersheds

It has been a full six months since Environment Minister Janice Sherry announced that the P.E.I. government would commence the process of developing a water act. “P.E.I. needs a single piece of legislation that covers all its water management policies,” said Minister Sherry in June.

“The implementation of a water act will demonstrate government’s commitment to managing water resources in a sustainable manner for present and future generations.”

The announcement followed a recommendation made by the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry in April, and then reiterated in November just before MLAs retired for the year. The committee, chaired by MLA Paula Biggar, had listened to presentations by over two dozen groups and individuals who were responding to requests by potato industry representatives to lift a 12-year moratorium on high-capacity wells.

The recommendations contained in their report to the legislature — to develop a water act and to keep the moratorium in place at least until government has a better understanding of the impact of lifting the moratorium — was very much in keeping with the views of a vast majority of presenters. Since Minister Sherry’s initial announcement, there has been no further word on the subject from her office — nothing to indicate what kind of process will be undertaken, who will be involved and when it will start.

Since the June announcement, there have been the usual seasonal anoxic events in Island estuaries, and a major fish kill in the Ellen’s Creek watershed (the final report of the investigation into which has yet to be released). As late as last week we were reminded of the vulnerability of our watersheds, as heavy rainfalls caused flooding, wide-scale destruction of infrastructure across the province, significant run-off from fields and roads and siltation in most of our waterways.

All Islanders have an interest in a policy designed to protect water; it is a resource that we hold in common, and we have a collective responsibility to ensure that clean water is available, in adequate supply, for ourselves and for future generations.

If our goal is a water policy that respects the needs and the wishes of Islanders, then the process as well as the Act itself will need to be designed to reflect some basic values, including: equal opportunities for meaningful participation, respect for the knowledge of the community, inclusion of diverse perspectives, clear communication and transparency, and empowerment of individuals and communities.

And what about that process? How might it be designed to reflect those values?

In the first place, the committee that steers the process would be “arm’s length” from government and representative of as many interested parties as possible. Besides people with technical expertise or knowledge, members of various communities would be included — farmers, fishers, First Nations, municipalities, community members, environmental & watershed groups — to ensure credibility of the process and promote inclusion, full participation, transparency and accountability.

Everyone who participates in the process should have an honest opportunity to influence the decision-making. It would help to have a clear idea, from the beginning, of how the information and views that everyone contributes to the process will be used.

A background document or discussion paper, provided in advance of public consultations, would help people to prepare to participate in the process, especially if it is accompanied by some key questions to frame the discussion. The document would include pertinent information and data, including the total amount of water that is now being pumped from existing high capacity wells, and the amount of water that is used annually by Islanders.

Consultations would take place in a broad range of Island communities and be as accessible as possible in order to facilitate full participation. There would be flexibility in the process, allowing for additional consultations when or where necessary.

When groups or individuals take the time to participate, they must be able to see how their participation has or has not influenced the outcome. It will be important that all submissions are made public.

In fact, it is important that all documents and information regarding the process and consultations are made widely available.

The provincial library system, Access P.E.I. and social media could be used to communicate information, including: a summary of the process; the initial discussion paper and questions; written submissions; technical documents; reports from the community consultations; an overall summary report of the consultations.

At every stage of the development of the Act, consideration should be given to how it will be implemented, enforced and monitored, what kinds of regulations will be necessary, and how it will be communicated to the public. Because, in the end, we really do want a piece of legislation that is effective; an Act that protects and improves water quality, provides adequate supplies of clean water into the future, and protects and improves the health of our watersheds.

By Ann Wheatley (guest opinion)

Ann Wheatley is a member of The Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water

Fish Tales PEI – MacPhail Woods on Wednesday, August 20th

On behalf of the production crew of Fish Tales PEI, we would like to invite you to join us at MacPhail Woods Nature Centre on Wednesday, August 20th, at 6:30pm for a river walk on the historic MacPhail grounds, music and poetry by Island artists and an informative evening of discussions followed by the premiere of Fish Tales.

Fish Tales is a short documentary film shot on PEI in the summer of 2013. The film explores how rivers and waterways on Prince Edward Island influence Islanders’ views on social and environmental issues. We look at current realities and challenges in our rivers, including the human impact of catastrophic events like fish kills. Through interviews and storytelling with experts from all sides of the spectrum, Fish Tales captures how Islanders interact with these areas, and their perspectives on the future of our watershed heritage.

We want to highlight that many Islanders, from all walks of life, are interdependent with, and have a responsibility towards, the health of PEI’s historic waterways.

To view a trailer for the film, please visit www.vimeo.com/conorleggott/fishtalestrailer
Fish Tales was produced by a volunteer crew of Adnan Saciragic, Ashley Prince, Conor Leggott, and Hanna Hameline. The film was made possible by funding from the Environmental Coalition of PEI, and in-kind support from the Island Media Arts Co-op and the Holland College Photography and Digital Imaging Program.

Please feel free to share this invitation with anyone who you think might be interested in Fish Tales.

​—–
join the campaign to keep the blue whale swimming in our Gulf!

Standing Committee is meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, June 25th, at 1PM

The most time sensitive announcement is that the Standing Committee is
meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, June 25th, at 1PM for what is likely the
last meeting on the high capacity well issue. All are welcome to attend
and be in the public gallery. It is at the Coles Building, next to
Province House, and several individuals and groups will be presenting,
including the Citizens’ Alliance of PEI at the end. If you are near
town tomorrow afternoon, drop in for as long as you can!

The High Capacity Wells Debate on CBC

CBC has this on their website:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/groundwater-politics-the-high-capacity-wells-debate-1.2674811

and somebody sent this link:

Not sure of the makers – (look at the whole YouTube channel for “PEI Clips”)

Next meeting of the Coalition is Thursday, July 3rd, 5PM, St. Paul’s Hall loft.

The Citizens’ Alliance is scheduled to present to the Standing Committee next Wednesday, June 25th. We are last on the agenda, I think, and the Committee is only hearing about the well issue.

And, the Liberals announcement of a water act today: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/water-act-to-be-introduced-by-p-e-i-government-1.2679458

Deep Water Wells Standing Committee

The dates are THIS Thursday, June 12th, and Wednesday, June 25th.  The Standing Committee of the PEI Legislature that has been listening to information about the issue of lifting the moratorium on high capacity wells for irrigation is meeting again twice this month.

Both meetings start at 1PM and are held in the Coles Building, which is the red brick building right next to Province House in Charlottetown.  The entrance faces Richmond Street and is near St. Paul’s Church and Murphy Community Centre.  There are both metered and free parking spaces in the area, but Richmond Street (Victoria Row) is now closed to cars.

Islanders are invited to be part of the “public gallery” in the Pope Room where the meetings are held.  It’s good for the Committee to see public interest in this issue.

This week there will be presentations from Cavendish Farms and the P.E.I. Potato Board, and from the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club and Phil Ferraro from the Institute for Bioregional Studies.

The June 25th meeting will have a presentation by Dr. Cathy Ryan, who was a panelist at the Water Forum on May 20th, and others. More details are here: http://www.assembly.pe.ca/committees/getCommittees.php?cnumber=11

 

Hot Potato

Hot Potato

The Prince Edward Island potato industry is lobbying for deep well permits, but not without great resistance.

Posted on March 31, 2014
Written by Rachel Phan

On the East Coast of Canada, a contentious debate rages on over the Prince Edward Island Potato Board’s request to have a moratorium lifted on deep-well water extraction for irrigation. The board, along with industry giant Cavendish Farms, began a full-scale lobby effort in January 2014 to push for deep-well permits, saying science indicates the Island has a high water-recharge rate. This has been met with significant backlash from environmentalists, citizen’s groups, and political parties that say extracting tonnes of water out of the Island’s deep water aquifer is risky business, especially since Prince Edward Island relies exclusively on groundwater.

“High-volume extraction could mean individual wells could dry up. There aren’t a lot of central water systems here in P.E.I.,” said Todd Dupuis, executive director of regional programs for the Atlantic Salmon Federation. “Often the country folk have their own wells, and if they’re in close proximity to a monster well that’s taking a lot of water out of the ground, it can actually really lower the water table to the point where your well no longer produces water.”

The moratorium, which was initially intended to be in place for a year, has been in place since 2001. In the more than 10 years since the moratorium was put in place, the Prince Edward Island department of environment has studied the Island’s water recharge rate. It released a provincial water extraction policy earlier this year around the same time the potato board began its lobby efforts, sparking claims the province is working in the interest of potato growers. The policy noted the province has “abundant groundwater recharge” of approximately two billion cubic metres a year, contradicting recent reports of a dwindling water supply in the province. (For more on this, see bit.ly/peiwater.)

“The department of environment found that […] less than seven per cent of the P.E. I. groundwater is used by all users,” said Gary Linkletter, chairman of the Prince Edward Island Potato Board. “Of that seven per cent, […] industrial uses about 30 per cent and residential about 60 per cent. Currently, irrigation is hardly even a player in P.E.I. groundwater use.

“If there was a real concern about water use, these other users are the ones where a moratorium would actually make a difference. […] We feel it is only proper and fair that agriculture not be subject to the current, very selective moratorium.”

Prince Edward Island potato growers have said that, without deep-water wells, productivity will decline and lead to the reduction of the province’s $1-billion potato industry. Some growers have expressed concerns over staying competitive, especially since American farmers can sometimes harvest twice the amount of potatoes from one acre.

“We’re not even close to that in Canada because we don’t have the longer growing season or access to irrigation,” Kevin MacIsaac, chair of the United Potato Growers of Canada, told The Guardian.

Dupuis expressed suspicion over the new department of environment policy, especially since he said it came “out of the blue.”

“The new water-withdrawal policy makes a case for irrigation for the potato industry and it was a bit of a surprise to us that the policy came out,” he said. “It was pretty much just one provincial department that put the policy together, and it certainly has fingerprints all over it from the potato industry.”

Along with questions over the ability of the province’s deep-water aquifer to handle high-volume extraction, others have raised concerns over the potential increased contamination of drinking water. Government data already suggests that nearly all of the province’s drinking water is contaminated with nitrates.

“[Growers] add more fertilizer than they need, and that stuff is very water soluble and full of nitrate and phosphate,” Dupuis said. “There’s always stuff left over: it leeches down into the soil, and the soil in P.E.I. is sandstone, so it is very porous. The water up high is latent with fertilizer and percolates down.”

Linkletter said the contamination of aquifers by fertilizers is actually exacerbated by dry conditions. “Proper moisture conditions for the crop to grow would reduce what fertilizer is left in the soil. […] It would be more likely to reduce problems rather than increase them.”

He added that the deep-well extraction for irrigation would only occur for a very limited portion of the year, and that such wells would be monitored to ensure “responsible supplemental irrigation.”

Since the potato industry has made its request to the province to remove the moratorium, there has been an impassioned response from concerned islanders who are attending usually empty committee meetings in droves. A February 26 meeting was attended by 200 Prince Edward Islanders, including biologist Darryl Guignon, who said, “None of us have been asked anything about this. Nor the department of fisheries and oceans, nor the public! It’s our water for heaven’s sakes, and we can’t even have an input in a water policy?”

Environment Minister Janice Sherry has said the provincial government will not make a decision on deep-well irrigation and the moratorium will not be lifted until there is further proof that such practices would not diminish the quantity or quality of Prince Edward Island’s groundwater.  WC

Rachel Phan is Water Canada’s managing editor. This article appears in Water Canada’s March/April 2014 issue.

Island Water Symposium at UPEI

UPEI News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Island Water Symposium at UPEI

 

Charlottetown, PEI (April 28, 2014)—The future of the Island’s water supply will be the subject of an upcoming public symposium at the University of Prince Edward Island. In light of recent concern about increased pressure on our groundwater resources by urban, industrial, and agricultural use, this event is a timely one.

 

Island Water Futures: Assessing the Science will take place in the Alex H. MacKinnon Auditorium, Room 242 of UPEI’s McDougall Hall, beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 20. The symposium is sponsored by the Institute of Island Studies in conjunction with UPEI Research Services.

 

This is a public-forum event with presentations by three speakers: Dr. Ryan O’Connor, Dr. Cathy Ryan, and Dr. Michael van den Heuvel.

 

Dr. O’Connor, a graduate of UPEI, is an environmental historian. His PhD thesis, written at the University of Western Ontario, will be published this year by UBC Press under the title The First Green Wave. His talk will provide a general overview of research done so far relating to the Island’s groundwater resources; he will review the various scientific papers, reports, and theses produced about the Island’s water supply.

 

Dr. Ryan is a professor cross-appointed to Geoscience and Environmental Sciences at the University of Calgary with a long interest in agricultural impacts on water quality. She leads a team of hydrogeologists working with agricultural scientists to understand groundwater in the fractured sandstone on Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia as part of the Canadian Water Network’s Secure Source Water Network.

 

Dr. van den Heuvel is the Canada Research Chair in Watershed Ecological Integrity at UPEI. He studies the effects of agriculture and chemical use on freshwater and coastal environments. His focus is the endocrine responses, immunotoxicology, and population health of fish. He is working to develop methods and solutions to best monitor environmental problems and better protect rivers in Prince Edward Island.

 

The symposium will be chaired by Diane Griffin, long-time councillor for the Town of Stratford and a former deputy minister of the provincial Department of the Environment. Last year, Dr. Griffin was awarded an honorary doctorate by UPEI.

 

Members of the public are cordially invited to attend this symposium. Admission is free. Following the three presentations, there will be ample time for discussion and questions from the floor.

 

-30-

Media contact:
Dave Atkinson, Research Communications
(902) 620-5117,
datkinson@upei.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 10th, 2014

Yesterday’s Guardian, sometime giving you editorial waffles with your breakfast, has the temerity to chastise the Standing Committee for not being decisive.
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Editorials/2014-04-09/article-3682638/Committee-opts-to-delay-decision-on-deep-water-wells/1
(italics and bolding are mine)

Committee opts to delay decision on deep-water wells
lead editorial
Published on April 09, 2014

Recommendation to keep moratorium in place shirks responsibility on issue

The recommendation from a legislature standing committee that the moratorium on deep-water wells should remain in place while further investigation and public hearings continue, leaves more questions than answers. The key issue remains unresolved and the committee seems befuddled on what to do next.
The request from the P.E.I. Potato Board to lift the 10-year moratorium on deep-water wells has resulted in months of intense debate, letter writing and opinion submissions. The committee held lengthy hearings where individuals and groups, both for and against, were passionate in presenting viewpoints and arguments.

But there is no information from the committee about additional hearings. There is no timeline for an answer. Such an important question requires action or at least a plan. Instead, the committee presented a stopgap recommendation. It seems the committee is anxious to put the controversial question aside and is reluctant to deal with the issue.

If the committee cannot produce an answer, then perhaps itʼs time to assemble an independent commission to review submissions, analyze the best data available and deliver a scientifically supported recommendation.

Members of the public had packed the committee hearings in almost unprecedented numbers. They want an answer as well. Instead the committee is suggesting that government develop a Water Act. Such legislation is long overdue, but also raises the questions: Will this further delay an answer on wells or is this a completely separate issue? A Water Act should give direction on how we use and protect our water supply but it could also derail the whole deep-water well issue for a year or even longer.

At some point, we have to make a decision and it better be the right one. If the issue is too complex for committee members to handle, let the science talk. Is there sufficient groundwater to supply additional deep-water wells and is there sufficient recharge to replenish the water used? Environment data indicates the answers to both are yes. Many have called for a review of that data. An independent commission can provide that.
———-
The kind reader will overlook that a professional publication did not remember that “data” is plural, but the logic behind their argument is weak and looks a bit biased.  Many presenters clearly pointed out that the Department of Environment’s declaration that there is sufficient recharge is based on flawed interpretation of incomplete research.   Why are they in such a rush?  The Committee never said it couldn’t reach a decision; it said its work is not done.   The demand that the moratorium be lifted exactly duplicates language from someone on the Potato Board in one of the first articles about this issue.

The editorial does recommend an independent commission, which could look at the wells issue and concept of a sustainable water act.

Here is another commentary on the subject:

Green Party calls for Public Commission of Inquiry on Water Resources
(from a Facebook posting April 9, 2014)
With the release of the standing committee’s report on high-capacity wells on Friday, there was a deep sense of relief felt by the huge number of Islanders who had expressed concerns about the potential lifting of the moratorium.

“A great number of people and organisations had spent hundreds of hours compiling submissions to the standing committee telling them that we have insufficient information to make a decision with potentially profound and irreversible outcomes,” said Peter Bevan-Baker, leader of the Green Party of Prince Edward Island. “I am relieved and pleased that the committee has recommended to maintain the moratorium at this time. The wording of the report, however suggests that when the submissions which were postponed by the recent storms are heard, a different recommendation could be made.”

A less ambiguous recommendation from the committee was that the government develop a Water Act for Prince Edward Island. The Green Party and some other groups specifically called for this in their presentations to the committee, and are delighted that this has been recommended so forcefully in the report.

“An obvious first step towards this end would be a Public Commission of Inquiry, to assess research already done, consult with Islanders in their communities from tip to tip, call expert witnesses and perhaps advocate for more research to be done,” continued Bevan-Baker. “We have had Royal Commissions on land ownership and use but never a comparable one on water resources. Its findings would be used to inform the Water Act, which would include a water policy for the Island. Such a process would provide invaluable information not only for a fully informed decision on such issues as high-capacity wells, but to guide us in how to protect the quality and quantity of this precious and irreplaceable resource into the future.”

Bevan-Baker suggests that Nova Scotia’s “Water for Life” act could be a useful template from which PEI could start the work to develop our own Water Act, which would be unique and tailored to our particular geological and hydrological situation.
———-
The high capacity well issue was featured in the most recent (March 31, 2014) magazine called Water Canada, which is described as “The Complete Water Magazine…Water Canada is an influencer, a networker, and a newsmaker. Our editors and researchers know the industry. More importantly, we know the people implementing plans and projects on the frontlines.  Thousands of readers turn to Water Canada for exclusive, insightful content that speaks to Canada’s water expertise, connects the country’s decision-makers, and promotes better water management and stewardship of our most important natural resource.”

Article:https://watercanada.net/2014/hot-potato/

A pretty good take on the issue, which perhaps The Guardian editors should read, especially the last paragraph:
“Environment Minister Janice Sherry has said the provincial government will not make a decision on deep-well irrigation and the moratorium will not be lifted until there is further proof that such practices would not diminish the quantity or quality of Prince Edward Island’s groundwater.”