Coalition Suggests Improvements to Water Act

Opinion Piece published in the Charlottetown Guardian, December 7, 2017

By Catherine O’Brien and Marie Ann Bowden

The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water recently met to discuss the newest draft of the Water Act.  After an inclusive and thorough participatory process, we are disappointed that no public consultation was allowed for this final draft.

Though we do see some very positive additions, we feel it is important to point out some significant gaps within the draft Water Act that are of great concern. We hope that some changes and amendments can be made before this Bill becomes law.

1. The “Purpose and goals” section of the draft Water Act is important but does not create rights.  A separate provision is needed in the Act to acknowledge and enshrine the right of Islanders to a clean and adequate supply of water.  We suggest, “The peoples of PEI have the right to affordable water, sufficient in quality and quantity for human and ecosystem sustainability. This includes the inherent water rights of the indigenous people of PEI.”

2. The section dealing with the ban on fracking appears to be good news, but the clauses which follow can circumvent the ban if the Minister along with the Cabinet believe it is in “the public interest”, to do so with no requirement for public consultation. Therefore, the offending s. 19 (2) and (3) should be deleted from the draft.

3. We strongly suggest an amendment to section 2(c) to highlight and ensure the success of the partnership between all stakeholders. We suggest it read:
(c) Water is a finite resource, the management of which requires transparency of all information related to water and meaningful public participation to ensure its long-term sustainability and availability.

4. The “polluter pays” principle, “precautionary principle” and “intergenerational equity” are vaguely alluded to in the Bill but it is important to actually use the words if the province is indeed committed to these principles as goals. Such incorporation allows the province to incorporate best practices related to these evolving concepts and avail itself of the jurisprudence that helps interpret (and we hope further) these laudable goals.

5. In section 18(2)(a), the content of the registry of information available to the public is vague, and should include “applications and approvals, orders and directives and other information regarding an application.” In addition, the registry should be accessible to all Islanders and be presented in a timely manner.

6. Sustainability and conservation are not seen in the Act as primary goals.  For instance, municipalities can exceed the withdrawal limits indefinitely (s.36(b)) without penalty. There is nothing in the Act that requires the municipalities to incorporate conservation measures, nor are they given a timeline to comply with limits. This should change. It is unacceptable to propose legislation that essentially allows municipalities to operate outside the law.

7. The moratorium on high capacity wells should be specifically included in the legislation.  It was a key component of many presenters’ requests, as was concern about nitrates, and was the impetus for the development of the Water Act.  After the public review a chart, provided by Government, listed the concerns of Islanders based on the strength of public input. It clearly showed overwhelming support for the moratorium.  Again, we should require sustainable practices that do no harm to the environment when there is any water extraction.  It’s not about “if” the ban can be lifted but “why” does it need to be? Who benefits? Would lifting the moratorium reflect the priority that Islanders place on the protection of our underground water resources? Until these and other relevant questions are definitively answered the moratorium should remain and be specifically articulated in the Act.

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A Troubling Issue of High Capacity Wells

Opinion Piece by Gary Schneider and Don Mazer

November 30, 2017

The unveiling of the Water Act did little to resolve the central issue which sparked the creation of the Act – the moratorium on high capacity wells. Over 90% of those who participated in the extensive Water Act consultations were in favour of maintaining the moratorium. Unfortunately, the Act does not reflect this strong consensus.

To be clear, the draft Water Act does NOT include a moratorium on high capacity wells. Surprisingly, “high capacity wells” is only mentioned in a slide presentation on the Act, not in the Act itself. Under the heading “High capacity wells for Ag irrigation”, it says that “Water extractions will be addressed in regulations once the research on stream flow has been completed.”

The problem is that a very complex issue appears to have been simplified to a question of volume. In the face of climate change and competing needs, will we ever have enough scientific certainty to accurately predict how much water might be available for different uses? Even if we do develop trustworthy models, there is so much more to the question of how to safeguard PEI’s precious water resources for future generations than mere volume.

The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water has been a part of this process since the initial push for a new Act. We believe that the Act must clearly state that the moratorium on high capacity wells will remain in place until we have much more scientific certainty and that any decision to change the status quo will first require an inclusive public process that addresses a wide variety of relevant issues.

Just looking at one narrow aspect of whether water is available to be given away to support industrial potato production, more golf courses, or urban areas that exceed their sustainable water limits ignores many other concerns that also need to be addressed. These include the following:

Do Islanders really want an even more industrialized system of potato production, with fewer and fewer farmers and larger and larger farms? We’ve been heading in this direction for decades and it has resulted in a great deal of damage to the environment. Should we not instead be looking at ways to increase organic matter in the soil that will both store carbon and allow the land to hold more water, thereby reducing soil erosion and pesticide run-off?

It would be wiser to look at how to improve our soils, rebuild our hedgerows and windbreaks, and extend the rotation of row crops, instead of increasing pressure on our already overworked Island soil and water. Our rivers and estuaries are already overburdened – we need to address these issues, not take steps that might lead to more harm.

We also need to know much more about the ecology of our waterways and the wildlife that are dependent on these important areas. The fish kills do not only harm fish – they kill shellfish, insects, birds and essential micro-organisms as well. Will greatly increased water extraction result in more risk to Island wildlife and ecosystems?

These answers will not be easy to come by. We have done little monitoring of the impacts of existing high capacity wells, and so have missed a golden opportunity to learn from our actions. Impacts might not show up right away, especially since we still have so much to learn.

As well as lack of contextual and comparative analysis, there is concern that long term considerations and analysis are also missing. Climate change may well bring about changes in hydrological cycles. There is also concern over the sustainability of exporting of large amounts of water embedded in potatoes. These are long-term considerations where the precautionary principle needs to be recognized, as we are making decisions for the next seven generations as our Mi’kmaq and other Indigenous leaders would advise us all.

We must make thoughtful, long-term decisions about water. That is what Islanders overwhelmingly asked for when making submissions to the extensive consultations around the Water Act.

A true moratorium on high capacity wells should be included in the Water Act for two reasons: first, to ensure that the clearly expressed wish of the majority of Islanders is respected and second, to mandate that any change to the status quo will only be undertaken after open and transparent debate among our lawmakers with meaningful participation by interested Islanders. And in the question of the protection of our water and its use, this means everyone.

 

 

Coalition Protests Approval of Four High Capacity Wells

 

July 19, 2016

Minister Robert Mitchell,

Department of Communities, Land and the Environment

Box 2000, Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8

Dear Minister Mitchell:

The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water has serious concerns about the approval of the Aqua Bounty application to expand their operations in Rollo Bay, and the issuing of permits for the operation of four high capacity wells on June 17.

We regard approval of this application as a breach of faith, an action that is in direct contradiction to the goals and values of the thoughtful consultation process conducted by your department through the Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) in the development of the Water Act. The major impetus for developing a Water Act was the widely shared concern about the possibility of lifting the existing moratorium on high capacity wells for agriculture. This concern was at the heart of numerous high quality presentations made to the EAC. This is exactly the kind of issue that a Water Act is intended to deal with.

Common to many of these presentations, and evidenced in the EAC report, was the importance of transparent processes and meaningful community engagement on water issues. The approval of the Aqua Bounty application has failed to meet your own standards of transparency and engagement reflected in consultations about the Water Act.

The EAC report recommends that the province should:

  • Ensure transparency on status of our water and the decision-making process that affects that status
  • Consolidate and define the process for approval/rejection and regulation of high capacity wells
  • Tailor water usage to respective watersheds and develop a watershed budget and water allocation system in consultation with local advisory groups, communities and municipalities.

But with Aqua Bounty, we saw a ‘consultation process’ that was inadequate from the beginning.

  • Only a single notice for one public meeting was published on the back pages of the Guardian. Most concerned groups did not see that notice and therefore did not attend. Level 2 Public Consultations require “The meeting must be properly advertised by the proponent in the Guardian, as well as the local newspaper, for 6 consecutive days.”
  • The Coalition and other environmental organizations sent letters of concern to the provincial government. Beyond acknowledgement of the receipt of these letters, we did not receive any indication that our concerns were addressed.
  • Any public input that may have been received was not accessible: we did not see our letters of concern posted on your department’s website.
  • The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water and other concerned groups did not receive notification or invitation to a public meeting to provide meaningful input from key environmental stakeholders.

While this failure of process is very disturbing to us, the most startling and contradictory development is the issuing of permits for high capacity wells that allows the pumping of almost two million gallons of water a day to meet the needs of Aqua Bounty. This quantity is about half of the water used by the municipality of Charlottetown to meet the needs of 30,000 residents, its businesses, industries and institutions. The problems resulting from this level of extraction on the Winter River watershed are widely known, a result of the current policies and regulations that are recognized as inadequate and outdated by your own department and by the EAC.

How can you then issue permits based upon policies and regulations requiring the kind of change a Water Act would bring?

It should not matter if these are new wells or existing wells to be reactivated. The fact that these wells are for aquaculture and not agriculture seems like a minor distinction. We can only conclude that this was an expedited bi-lateral negotiation between your department and Aqua Bounty, designed to bypass the public and the development of a Water Act. Why was the approval of this application regarded as so urgent that it could not await the development of the needed policies for water use on PEI that we thought we were collectively working toward?

We are concerned and disturbed by your decision. But we are also disappointed. Up to this point, you have set a high standard for openness to consultation, transparency and responsiveness to community concerns in your tenure as Environment Minister. The processes of consultation for the Water Act reflects this high standard.

We are left with these questions:

1) Isn’t the issue of the approval of high capacity wells one of the key elements that a Water Act should address?

2) If this application process is indicative of current water governance by the province, are we to assume that selected new applicants will have access to the same process and get approval before we see a new Water Act?

3) Will all existing permit holders (now including Aqua Bounty and others that may be approved prior to the new Water Act) have to be in compliance with the regulatory component of the water act, or will there be a grandfather clause that allows existing users to use water as they always have?

The Aqua bounty permit raises other important questions about grandfather clauses. These wells will greatly increase the value of this or any business granted those rights and reflect a huge handover of public resources for private profit and economic benefit.

4) Are these permits/rights granted in perpetuity?

5) Could those rights be transferred in the sale of the business?

6) Could they be retained or re-sold separately by private or corporate entities should the business fail?

7) Can unused capacity be sold to another user?

8) Can water be transferred to another development?

9) Are these rights now property that can be transferred to heirs of the owners?

There needs to be significant action and response to public concerns to restore faith in the legitimacy of this process. The Aqua Bounty assessment process is inconsistent with the consultation values you have encouraged around the Water Act and which resulted in the sincere engagement of so many members of the PEI environmental community.

We believe it is important for you to make a full and public statement indicating your justifications for this decision and addressing its inconsistencies with the consultation values you have supported. We would like there to be an appeal process that would make it possible for you to rescind the permits that you expedited.

We are hopeful that you can take actions that can restore our faith and affirm the legitimacy of the process of developing the Water Act. Our Coalition includes a broad range of environmental and social justice groups from across PEI. We have been active and committed contributors to the consultations up to this point. It is disheartening to see fundamental values so easily bypassed.

Sincerely,

Catherine O’Brien, Don Mazer, Gary Schneider

The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water

 

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

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.”

High capacity wells issue goes much deeper

It was placed in the middle bottom of the far right editorial page, under a charming article that had a photo with a Big Bird puppet, that space that’s easy politely to ignore….but it says so much.
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2014-03-26/article-3663130/High-capacity-wells-issue-goes-much-deeper/1

High capacity wells issue goes much deeper
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 26, 2014
By Peter Bevan-Baker (commentary)

If you have been promoting green ideas for a quarter of a century, as I have, you almost expect your warnings of imminent crisis to be politely ignored or gently ridiculed. Such was the case last week when Darcie Lanthier and I made a presentation to the standing committee which is receiving submissions on the high capacity well issue.

It is clear that this matter has struck a chord with Islanders who fear for the safety of their water, but this issue goes much, much deeper than the underground aquifer at the centre of the debate. Prince Edward Island is on the cusp of an important decision: one that will shape the agricultural, social and economic future of our province. For many decades, when it comes to agriculture, P.E.I. has followed the conventional industrial pattern of consolidation, monoculture, dependence on fossil-fuel inputs and competing in a global market place. Successive Island governments have welcomed, aided and abetted this model, embracing the economic activity and jobs which flowed from it. But we have also paid a high price. Rural Prince Edward Island has been decimated, farmers bankrupted, farmland damaged, drinking water contaminated, rivers and estuaries spoiled, and Islandersʼ health compromised. Somehow we have accepted all these problems as a tolerable cost of doing business. But for how much longer should, or even can we do this?

We have other options: choices which promise not only to reverse the ills of the current model but which will forge a future for P.E.I. which is safe, prosperous and sustainable.

Proponents of the industrial model like to talk about how it is such a sophisticated approach to food production. The Federation of Agriculture repeatedly talked about conventional agriculture as not simply the only hope to grow food for an expanding population, but also the most precise, efficient, refined approach. On both counts they are absolutely wrong. Growing more Russet Burbanks of consistent size has nothing to do with feeding the world, and everything to do with feeding a voracious corporate master that cares nothing for the land from which their product comes, nor the well-being of those who provide it for minimal return. And there is nothing sophisticated about planting a single variety of crop over thousands of acres and then continuously dousing it in chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides so that it survives to maturity. Real sophistication in agriculture comes from developing systems over hundreds of generations that work with nature, not war against it; building up soil health; planting multiple varieties of different crops in long rotations; practising mixed farming using natural, home-grown inputs; and producing high-quality, safe, nutritious food.

In our presentation, we cited several global systems which are showing signs of overwhelming stress energy, water and food supplies, and climatic and economic stability. If any one of these parts of our human support system were to collapse, we are in deep trouble. Following our submission, there was not one question from any committee member related to this central part of our presentation. As I said, you get used to being ignored. Less than a week later, a report commissioned by NASA, based on concerns in exactly the same areas as Darcie and I had highlighted, stated the following: “closely reflecting the reality of the world today… we find that collapse is difficult to avoid.” It is less easy for members of the standing committee and Islanders in general to ignore these sorts of warnings when they come from institutions such as NASA, and writers like Jared Diamond, whose book “Collapse; How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” written in 2005 predicted many of our current day problems.

P.E.I. has an enviable opportunity: to be ahead of the rest of the world, and to embrace a future that will provide us with more jobs, more prosperity, better products and rejuvenated rural communities. This is about more than water, it is about choosing the future of our province we prefer; one that will succeed.
– Peter Bevan-Baker is leader of the Green Party of P.E.I.

March 23rd, 2014

And from Friday’s Guardian,  from Ralph MacDonald:
Small Island canʼt risk wells
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 21, 2014
Editor:
I donʼt think most of us know enough about the deep-water wells issue in this province but I do think that you donʼt have to be a trained scientist to realize that these proposed wells would be detrimental to our ground water for years to come. Betty Howatt said it well: “weʼre sitting on a sandbar surrounded by water” and with that itʼs very obvious that this small piece of land, surrounded by water, cannot sustain deep wells without dire consequences. Is it a point of greed, is it something the growers are putting a deaf ear to, the list goes on?
If the deep water wells come to pass it could cause irreparable damage to groundwater, do we want to risk it? All the streams that get contaminated every year, and this is ground water, with runoff is sufficient to contend with. Once again, do we want to risk it?
Ralph MacDonald,
Borden-Carleton

And Saturday’s, a Carl Mathis moment, reminding us that smiling is good for us in such absurd times:
A longer fry really the key
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 22, 2014

Editor:
Well, well, finally, the great light has come on. If it were just for the size of the potato crop, the processing plants would not need the deep wells. They have fired workers because there is a world glut of fries. There was a movie, wasn’t there, called “The Longest Fry?”
The solution, without any deep wells, is to get the Food Technology Centre to come up with potato glue, so they can glue fries together to make the longest fry. Whatever the serving size at McDonald’s, that would be one long fry. Super size that, and it would be one longer fry. Really biggie that, and build the longest fry.
People would be called back to work as fry gluers. They could work in teams, several people to a fry. The plants could be expanded, adding very long, narrow rooms to have the spaces to glue up these longest fries.
New long fryers would be needed in every fast food restaurant, and they would need new packaging, giving us another industry. The county fairs would have long fry eating contests, announcing how many yards of fries the winner ate.
Share a fry with your sweetie. You start at opposite ends and eat until you meet at the middle. Mmmmmm.
All would be well, then, but not deep wells.
Carl Mathis,
Charlottetown

Upcoming event:
A second Connect Meeting (nationwide groups with local branches working on electoral reform):
“Join us for the second Connect Meeting held by island members of Leadnow on Tuesday, March 25 at 7:00 pm at the Haviland Club (2 Haviland Street in Charlottetown).Leadnow.ca is an independent advocacy organization that is working to build a stronger democracy that protects our environment, creates economic opportunity while increasing equality, and guarantees that everyone receives the care they need.

Leadnow is launching its 2014-15 Plan and we’re inviting Fair Vote members and other interested parties to join us in the planning process for the leadup to the next federal election.Our current focus is electoral reform. Hear about Leadnow’s current campaigns and how you can help. For more information go to www.leadnow.ca or call 626-4364.”

Great to see groups with similar interests working together!!

March 22nd, 2014

Apparently, the “ad-as-news-story” deal is still on at The Guardian, as evidenced by this story on A4 of Friday’s print edition; it was the lead story on-line for most of the day.  The story has a “graphic supplied by the P.E.I. Potato Board” graphic, now nicely colourized from their print ad last week and a huge quarter-page in the print edition:
Link:
Guardian heralds Potato Board

P.E.I. Potato Board heralds environmental record

image copyright PEI Potato Board

(There is no by-line for this story, but presumably it was a staff writer….at the Potato Board….)

The P.E.I. Potato Board says itʼs time for the public to move past the history and look at what todayʼs potato growers are doing to protect the environment.
Gary Linkletter, chairman of the P.E.I. Potato Board, emphasizes that “potato farmers of today have learned a lot from past challenges and are making tangible changes in production practices in order to farm in a more environmentally sustainable fashion.”
In a news release, Linkletter says P.E.I. farmers have the highest level of enhanced environmental farm planning in Canada and also farm under the most stringent environmental legislation in Canada.
“This means P.E.I. potato growers meet and often exceed both voluntarily developed and regulated standards that are higher than any other farmers in the country,” said Linkletter.
Through collaborative effort between potato growers and the P.E.I. Department of Agriculture, construction of soil conservation structures has resulted in 1.1 million feet of terraces, 2.1 million feet of grassed waterways and 270,000 feet of farmable berms.
Potato growers also use a wide range of other tools to improve environmental sustainability, Linkletter said.
The approaches include use of buffer zones and set aside of sensitive land, nutrient management, strip cropping, crop rotation and residue-tillage equipment, new and lower input potato varieties and integrated pest management.
Another initiative, Farming 4R Island, partners with other industry players to foster beneficial management practices that protect soil quality and reduce nitrate levels.
“Todayʼs grower is looking to be more efficient, more effective and be more environmental responsible. Thatʼs why weʼre interested in supplemental irrigation. The Department of the Environment has indicated that agricultural irrigation accounts for only one per cent of total water usage,” said Linkletter, as he and the potato board continue lobbying for deep-water wells in the province.
“Some preliminary studies performed as part of the nitrate pilot project with the Kensington North Watershed Group in 2013 showed an 11.5 per cent increase in income per acre with supplemental irrigation due to increased marketable yields, while another test from the same study showed a reduction in average residual nitrate levels by 31.4 per cent. Thatʼs very encouraging information for people interested in having a viable potato industry while trying to be even more environmentally responsible.”

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Two comments:
So many farmers have environmental farm plans — great, but:  Farmers *have* to have an environmental farm plan in place to qualify for related programs and grants.

And the pilot project being done mentioned in the last paragraph?  So, can that study be released for others to review it?

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In the letters section were two letters on high capacity wells, and one on pesticides. I’ll reprint the other well one tomorrow.
Bethany Doyle’s letter:

True impact of wells remains to be done

Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 21, 2014

Editor:
In the Guardian editorial of March 12, the editor claims that if irrigation is needed, deep-water wells are the most efficient option. Since opposition to deep-water wells is pervasive and well reasoned, I believe that we need to give serious consideration to other ways of solving the problem such as improving the health of the soil.
In the same editorial, the editor refers to “other provinces or states where opposition to deep water wells is limited.” The reason opposition to deep-water wells may be limited in other places is that P.E.I. faces unique water supply challenges. Because of our soil structure and our dependence on groundwater as the sole supplier of drinking water, our water supply is uniquely fragile. We need to take great caution. And we need to find in our unique challenges incentive to work to improve the health of the soil so that there is an increase in its water-holding capacity.
The editor also says that “the standing committee and government have difficult tasks ahead as they must decide if compromise is possible to protect our water resource even if science supports additional deep-water wells . . .” This seems to imply that “science” supports additional deep-water wells while in fact many believe that credible scientific data come from peer-reviewed studies. Such studies regarding the true impact of deep-water wells on aquatic ecosystems have yet to be done.
The current moratorium on deep-water wells makes good sense and needs to be maintained.
Bethany Doyle,
Charlottetown
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Joan Diamond writes about (not) being protected from pesticides
Protection from pesticides? Afraid not
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 21, 2014
By Joan Diamond (commentary)

As a rural inhabitant of P.E.I., I have always been concerned about the rampant use of pesticides here. So when I recently heard that potatoes would be planted this year in the field 25 feet from my doorway, I decided to do some research about what kind of protection is provided for home owners in a situation like mine. Apparently, absolutely zero is the answer. A quick look at the P.E.I. Department of Environment Frequently Asked Questions, gave this concise information on the subject. source:http://www.gov.pe.ca/environment /index.php3?number=1040762&lang=E
<<
2. Do farmers have to provide advance notice,
to homeowners whose property adjoins the farmerʼs field, when they plan to make a pesticide application?
No. Farmers do not have to provide advance notification of a pesticide application. However, when asked to do so, most are happy to provide this information.
3.  How close to my property line can my neighbour, or someone acting on his/her behalf, apply a pesticide?
A pesticide can be legally applied to the edge of a property line.
4.   Are there pesticide-free ʻbuffer zonesʼ around schools, parks, playgrounds, and sports fields in P.E.I.?
No. There are no pesticide-free buffer zones around these areas.
5. If I receive a written notice that a neighbour is having a pesticide applied to their property, can I legally STOP this application?
No. A property owner has a legal right to apply a pesticide to their property if they wish to do so.
6. I have received a written notice that a neighbour is having a pesticide applied to his/her property, but the notice does not provide the specific address of the property. Does the applicator have to provide this information to me?
No. Regulations under the P.E.I. Pesticides Control Act require that advance written notification must be provided to individuals who live within 25 metres of an area that is to be treated with a pesticide. The regulations do not require that the applicator provide the specific address of the property to be treated.
7. When is the wind blowing too strongly to apply a liquid pesticide, or a pesticide under pressure?
Regulations under the P.E.I. Pesticides Control Act set a maximum wind speed of 20 km/hr. However, even if the wind speed is below this level, it is the applicatorʼs responsibility to make sure that there is no drift of pesticide onto neighbouring properties.
…….
One would think that with ongoing fish kills, high nitrate levels and some of the highest rates of cancer, asthma and autism in Canada, a red flag would be going up. One would think, as I did, that there would be some limitations in place to protect Islanders. Instead, farmers are looking to dig deeper wells, which will undoubtedly have further detrimental effects on our already tainted water.
Pesticides are toxins, toxins we continue dumping into our soil and air in every non-organic potato field approximately 15 to 20 times each season.
Yet Islanders continue to be surprised about hearing every day about another friend being diagnosed with cancer, or another child being born with asthma or autism.
We are allowing this to happen. It is time for change. If you care about the health of Islanders, present and future, then take action. Write a letter to the editor, contact our minister of Environment and/or our premier. Buy organic produce, locally when you can. Get involved. Make some noise.

Joan Diamond is a rural Islander who lives in Fairview
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The Department of Environment webpage cited is here
and a screenshot is below:

March 21st, 2014

And a very good letter from last month about the high capacity wells, that took a while to get posted on the Guardian website:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2014-02-14/article-3631823/Causeways-back-then%2C-deep-water-wells-now/1

Causeways back then, deep-water wells now
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on February 14, 2014
A Reader’s View

Editor:
In the ongoing debate over deep-water irrigation wells was heard this comment: “We donʼt know what we donʼt know.” To some this comment would be profound, while to others inane.
It brought to mind a raging debate, of years gone by, over the provincial governmentʼs (of that day) decision to replace bridges and build causeways over the North and West rivers.
Avid fishers, hunters and others (my grandfather among them), voiced their strong opposition to the move, citing their great concern that such a move would kill the headwaters of these two important river systems, doing irreparable harm to the ecology of these two watershed areas.
The opposition voiced that the causeways would critically interfere with the tidal flushing of the rivers, flushings that were critical to keeping the headwaters alive and healthy, and by extension fish life and wild life alive and healthy.
The engineers and scientists, of the day, defended the governments move and voiced their ʻstudiedʼ opinions that no such harm would befall these two rivers headwaters, as the designed openings would be sufficient to allow the necessary flushing actions up the rivers.
Decades later it was determined that these headwaters were dead or dying, and something must be done to improve the flushing actions of the tides.
As a result the government of that day, acted to widen the spillway of the North River at Cornwall, and added a second bridge to the West River causeway, allowing greater
volumes of water to flow with the tidal actions
As a young teenager, father, my brother, and myself would fish off the bridge in Milton, catching some large and healthy trout. Alas, today the river in Milton is but a narrow stream compared to what it was 55 years ago.
What I have learned from all of this is that we are limited in our knowledge of things and there is much we (scientists included) have yet to learn and understand about all things. And, contrary to many expert opinions on this matter, nothing is absolute.
The opening statement, to me, is profound, and I say ʻnoʼ to lifting the ban on deep-water wells.
Bob Crockett, 
Charlottetown

March 18th, 2014

News and letters:

In yesterday’s Guardian,  from the Island Nature Trust board:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2014-03-18/article-3653836/Province-needs-water-management-plan/1

Province needs water management plan
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 18, 2014
A Reader’s View
Editor:
Domestic, industrial and agriculture water use is rising across Canada, putting many rivers and lakes under increasing strain. As an organization that works to protect natural areas across P.E.I., Island Nature Trust is concerned that any increase in the number of high-capacity groundwater wells will affect fish and wildlife in the province negatively. How much water can be withdrawn while still maintaining healthy natural aquatic ecosystems? It takes the expertise of hydrologists, engineers and biologists to understand and predict the changes in fish habitat in response to altered flow regimes/water systems.
Conservation practices such as longer crop rotations that include forages, better residue management and strip cropping increase the moisture holding capacity of the soil. The presence of organic matter enhances the soilʼs structure, thermal, and nutritional regimes; and decreases wind and water erosion. Healthy soils hold moisture better than those with low organic material. In other words, soils with high organic matter need less water for healthy plant growth.
Withdrawing water from existing ground water supplies at times of the year when those water levels are at their lowest and at a time when 100 per cent of the surface water flow is from groundwater (springs) will further reduce the volume of ground water flowing into springs, streams, rivers and estuaries. Reduced water flow coupled with high levels of nutrients currently found in the very potato-rich watersheds to be irrigated in central P.E.I., will lead to increased over-nutrification of water systems and then to an increase in anoxic events.
Wildlife in all parts of waterways will be affected by less water and by the associated issues such as eutrophication and anoxia. Extracting more groundwater from P.E.I. is about so much more than simply water volume issues. The permanent loss of high volumes of water in an already fragile aquifer at a very sensitive time of year will have negative impacts on aquatic animals and plants, including those harvested by humans.
Human health is important, and the high nitrate level found in groundwater in many wells in high potato production areas is a serious concern to the health of Islanders. However, wildlife and natural areas often take a back seat to human needs and health issues. In many jurisdictions fish and wildlife management agencies sit on the sidelines of important water management decisions.
On behalf of the health of our natural systems, including springs, streams, rivers, their riparian zones and estuaries we strongly encourage the P.E.I. Government to adopt a provincial water management plan to effectively integrate water quantity, quality and wildlife management and to maintain the existing moratorium on high-capacity deep water well construction.
Fiep de Bie,
President,
Island Nature Trust,
Board of Directors

The paper printed it in the lower right page under the heading “A Reader’s View” when of course Ms. de Bie is representing the views of the organization.
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At first glance, from New Brunswick, this headline sounded at-least-not-bad:

Impact of shale gas development on groundwater to be studied

New Brunswick Energy Institute investing $500K in two-year study, set to begin in April

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/impact-of-shale-gas-development-on-groundwater-to-be-studied-1.2577082

but then I received this comment from Bradley Walters in New Brunswick, who finds and sends out news about the fracking issue in New Brunswick with another article (blue is his, bold is mine):

Here are more details on the proposed NB study. It sounds like this intends to be little more than an assessment of baseline conditions of well water, with a focus on naturally-occurring methane contamination. In itself, that is not such a bad idea, but it is hard to see what good would come of this given they will presumably not be establishing baseline measurements for the various toxic chemicals actually used in fracking and/or liberated from deep underground as a result of fracking (e.g., heavy metals, radioactive elements, etc.). Also troubling is that this will likely be used to distract us from the many other risks and impacts associated with a shale gas industry (air pollution, habitat damage, surface water pollution, noise pollution, waste water pollution, etc.).  –Brad

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Testing Energy institute to spend $500,000 over two years to develop water quality baselines in four areas in southern New Brunswick that are earmarked for possible shale gas development

JOHN CHILIBECK TELEGRAPH-JOURNAL, March 18, 2014

FREDERICTON – The New Brunswick Energy Institute plans on spending more than $500,000 on research looking at well water quality in areas where industry wants to develop shale gas.

The institute, under fire for being funded by a pro-development Tory provincial government, said Monday the research would go toward establishing a proper baseline before any more wells are drilled.

It will take place in four areas of southern New Brunswick where exploration or development of the controversial industry is underway: Sussex-Petitcodiac, St. Antoine-Shediac, Harcourt-Richibucto and Boisetown-Upper Blackville.

Kerry MacQuarrie, a civil engineering professor at the University of New Brunswick, was selected as the project lead for the two-year study on about 500 private wells.He said it was important to find out the water quality before any further development takes place because sometimes people don’t realize there’s naturally occurring pollution with no human cause.

“This will be totally voluntary and it will be up to the homeowners that we contact whether they want to be involved”MacQuarrie said in an interview. “I would assume that people would be interested to know what the quality is for their drinking water, but there won’t be any obligation for anyone to take part.”

MacQuarrie is well aware of the controversy surrounding the industry and the institute itself. Between opinion polls and the province’s two major political parties, New Brunswick society appears to be split on the merits of shale gas development, which relies on hydraulic fracturing. The long-term consequences of fracking are still not completely understood,with critics,such as the Liberal opposition, saying a moratorium should be in place until more studies can be carried out, whereas the Tory government and other shale gas supporters argue that development, with certain safeguards, should go ahead to create more jobs and wealth.

   “This is a research study, and it’s not really linked to any particular interest group or industry group,” MacQuarrie said. “I have no links with the shale gas industry or anything like that. I’ve been doing ground water research in the province for over 20 years and I publish that in peer-reviewed scientific formats. People probably will take issue that it’s related to the shale gas issue, but I think it’s something worthwhile to do because it seems a lot of the concerns that have been raised are related to ground water quality and the potential impacts on that.”

Stephanie Merrill,freshwater program director with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, works for the environmental organization that has campaigned heavily to stop shale gas development. She welcomed the idea of further study Monday, though she qualified her support by saying she would have to first see a detailed work plan and explanation of the research methods.

She agreed that baseline studies were important, all the more reason, she said, for a moratorium on exploration and development.

“There should be a decision made right now to halt the further work of companies’ with exploration leases and licences while this kind of work is undertaken. That would go a long way in providing an increased level of trust with the public, so they can put aside the question of whether the work is supporting the industry versus having information for providing good solid information for whether the industry should go ahead”

MacQuarrie acknowledged the researchers would have a bit of trouble with their baseline data if the industry continues to develop over the next two years.

“I have no idea to predict what the industry might do in the next couple of years,but I’m guessing it would only be a handful of wells, perhaps, that might be drilled. But again, I have no inside information or any clue about that.”

The team, which will consist of MacQuarrie and as many as eight research students, will send mail-outs or hold meetings to pick about 500 private well owners in the select areas. To ensure their results are not contaminated, they want to establish their baseline using wells that are at least one to two kilometres away from any existing oil or gas wells or seismic tests that have already been conducted. Natural gas is currently extracted at the McCully fields near Sussex and dozens and dozens of different hydrocarbon wells have been drilled since the 19th century,most of them now abandoned.

The researchers want to look at newer private water wells built within the last 20 years when provincial regulations became stricter and data was collected on the wells. They also want sites that are nicely spaced apart with different geology so that they get a better variety and breadth of data. The study will run from April 2014 to April 2016, when a final technical report will be submitted.

The project will be the first large-scale examination of natural methane gas occurrences in private water wells in the province, with the objective to collect and report baseline domestic water quality data. The focus is on groundwater quality parameters that are most relevant to the potential impact on shallow groundwater from unconventional shale gas production.

Early results from the project will be provided in an interim progress report on the institute’s website. It is intended on being the beginning of a series of water studies that the institute will be funding relating to energy development.

MacQuarrie described the work as labour intensive and requiring a good deal of expertise to properly obtain and analyze samples.He said they’d probably work in concert with researchers at Université de Moncton, who have already begun work on collecting data on wells that might be contaminated by radioactive materials caused by deposits such as uranium.

The institute plans on spending $532,000 overall on the study.

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