Withdrawal Regulations in the PEI Water Act – Some Concerns

Members of the Coalition recently presented these concerns to the Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Water, Brad Trivers:

1-The supposition that we have lots of water came through loud and clear in the “Frequently Asked Questions”, posted on the Water Act website. There are important concerns related to this. We have heard from the Department that climate change is actually going to increase our recharge. Yet in UNB Hydrogeology Professor Kerry MacQuarrie’s presentation during the Water Act hearings in 2017, he said that scientific studies called for anything between a 12% decrease in precipitation to a 7% increase.  That is a large variation and one that makes us think that we really don’t have a good enough handle on it.

 This message of plentiful and abundant groundwater seems contradictory to the spirit of the act, and the need to ground it in a value of conservation (which needs more emphasis). Why exercise such care if our water is so abundant?

If we are trying to re-engage the public and restore a robust process of consultation, we have serious concerns about some of the “FAQs”. Certainly, providing people with factual information about the Act, and regulations is valuable. Q1-19 do this well. But some of the Q &As seem to try to tell people what to think about issues that have concerned them (e.g. 20, 23, 28). They read more like department policy than ‘factual answers’. These questions are legitimate concerns that people have brought to the process of the Water Act.

2-When talking about irrigation and the water regulations, we seem to hae ignored soil organic matter. It does no one any good to treat these as unrelated issues.  This brings us back to one of the glaring omissions in the Water Act, reference to agricultural practices which have significant impacts on water quality and quantity.

3-The same is true of the issue of nitrates and other contaminants. Even if it turns out that we have lots of water, questions remain. Is it good quality water? And will more irrigation lead to increases in nitrates or pesticides, and anoxic conditions?

4-We should ensure that all the regulations meet both the spirit and the letter of the legislation. We have already seen too many examples of people circumventing legislation (the Lands Protection Act, for example.)  Since we know people are already circumventing the spirit of the Water Act with their holding ponds, what is to stop people from pumping 340 cubic metres per day (just under the 345 cubic metre threshold) and irrigating their potatoes, thus once again circumventing the moratorium on high-capacity wells?

5-We would like to stress the importance of the Registry and the need to include it in regulations. What information will be posted and how quickly would it go online?  The Registry will be both useless and unused if it is not regularly updated and easily accessible.

6-What is the plan for monitoring the output of wells? Will we know how much water is being used from all wells above the “household” ones?  Who is looking after that information and will it be available on the registry?

7-The issue of conservation, especially regarding large users including municipalities, golf courses and aquaculture operations, seems to get short shrift in both the Act and the regulations. It should be a guiding value. While metering is helpful, it is hard to believe that people will take all the necessary steps to conserve water, especially if they are told that there are no issues with the abundance of water (see #1).

8-The regulations have no provisions for ongoing citizen engagement. We would hope that there would be provisions within the regulations for a Water Governance Board. This would be an excellent way of ensuring that we have an open, transparent and ongoing process that builds off the previous public involvement in developing the Act. The Coalition made a presentation in 2016 about this issue – find it here.

9-We don’t see the precautionary principle and intergenerational equity – two key issues that were repeatedly raised at the public meetings – reflected in the regulations.

10-In regulations related to water withdrawal that intend to prevent adverse effects from unsustainable extraction, it is a glaring omission to find no reference to the City of Charlottetown. The ongoing practices of our major municipality, and their impact on the Winter River Watershed are recognized by virtually everyone as a vivid example of the collective failure to protect water and the watershed.

While Charlottetown is (likely) the largest single user of water in the province, there are no references to limits to their water withdrawal. In fact, Section 35 (b) in the Act has the provision that should Charlottetown be designated by the Minister as a ‘designated municipal area, he may recommend “an amount that may exceed limits on water withdrawals or water withdrawal approvals that would otherwise apply.

Such a provision seems to allow the municipality to withdraw as much water as they want in perpetuity. Like all other water users, Charlottetown needs to comply with the terms of their permits. A Water Act and its regulations should not allow municipalities to live outside the law.

See our “clause-by clause” commentary on the withdrawal regulations HERE.

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Islanders Invited to Water Withdrawal Regulation Meetings

The public is invited to provide input on new draft regulations under the Water Act at a series of public meetings in October. These regulations will control water extraction and outline how much water can be drawn from wells, watercourses and wetlands.

Islanders can drop in to any of the following meetings between 6 – 8 pm:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 – Three Oaks High, Summerside *Translation Services available
  • Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019 – Hernwood Junior High, Mill River
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 – Kaylee Hall, Montague
  • Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2019 – Charlottetown Rural High, Charlottetown

“Water is essential to every part of life. Our water supports diverse ecosystems, drinking water for Islanders, a vibrant economy, and spaces for recreation.  It’s crucial we bring the Water Act into force. Ultimately, these regulations will help government experts continue to manage our water supply with sound data and science.”

– Brad Trivers, Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Change

The meetings will happen in a collaborative workshop format. Participants will be led through a series of exercises encouraging open feedback and input on the proposed regulations.

To help prepare for the meetings, visit On the Level(link is external) for an overview of PEI’s water resources, including how government is monitoring, managing and protecting watersheds.

For those unable to attend the public meetings, an online survey will be available from Tuesday, October 22 until Friday, November 8 at On The Level.(link is external)

The water withdrawal regulations have been available for public consultation since this summer and will continue to be available November 8, 2019.

Candidates’ Forums on the Environment – October 3

All-candidates Environmental Forums will be held in the four PEI ridings on October 3rd, at the Linkletter Community Centre (Egmont), Hunter River Community Centre (Malpeque), UPEI’s Duffy Amphitheatre (Charlottetown), and Kaylee Hall in Poole’s Corner (Cardigan). Most candidates have confirmed their participation. Forums get underway at 7 p.m. and will end at 9:15 p.m.

Twenty-four Island organizations (listed below) have joined up to sponsor the forums and have developed a list of questions that address climate change, marine conservation, pollution and environmental rights. Time will also be available for questions from the floor, submitted in writing before the second half of the forum.

Admission is free, although a donation jar will be provided to help defray some hall-rental and equipment expenses.

Organizations include the Environmental Coalition of PEI, the Institute of Island Studies, Pesticide Free PEI, PEI Environmental Health Cooperative, Cooper Institute, Save our Seas and Shores PEI, PEI Chapter of the Council of Canadians, Atlantic Canada Chapter of the Sierra Club, Blue Dot PEI, Citizens’ Alliance of PEI, Don’t Frack PEI, Nature PEI, Latin American Mission Program, Happy Ocean PEI, UPEI Environmental Society, Friends of Covehead & Brackley Bay, Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water, Green Economy Network, Trade Justice PEI, Green Economy Network, Hunter Clyde Watershed Group, PEI Youth for the Climate, Trout River Environmental Committee, the Coalition for Protection of PEI Land, and the PEI Watershed Alliance.

For more information, please contact:
Charlottetown: Laurie Brinklow, Institute of Island Studies, UPEI (brinklow@upei.ca)
Cardigan: Maureen Kerr (kerr.maureen@gmail.com)

Egmont: Barbara Graham (Barbara.bubbles.graham@gmail.com)
Malpeque: Ann Wheatley, Environmental Coalition of PEI (ann.wheatley@bellaliant.net)

Deadline for Commenting on the Water Act Regulations is Extended

The PEI government is accepting comments on the regulations for the new Water Act – those dealing with water withdrawal. You can find the regulations, and a plain language summary, and submit your comments online here: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/environment-water-and-climate-change/water-act

 

Protection of PEI Lands and Water as Sources of All Life

Cooper Institute’s 2019 Social Justice Symposium

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Cooper Institute will hold its 2019 Social Justice Symposium, Protection of PEI Lands and Water as Sources of All Life on Tuesday, June 4th, 6:30-9:00 pm at the Souris and Area Ski & Wildlife Lodge.

Cooper Institute is pleased to announce that its 2019 Social Justice Symposium will be held in Souris on Tuesday, June 4th, and that it will be co-hosted by the Souris & Area Branch of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation.

The symposium, which is one of three that Cooper Institute will hold in different Island communities this year, will be on the theme of Protection of PEI Lands and Water as Sources of All Life, and will take place at the Souris and Area Ski & Wildlife Lodge, 1358 Souris Line Rd on Tuesday June 4th, from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Everyone is invited, and there is no fee to register. Refreshments will be provided. Pre-registration is advised, to make sure there is room for everyone. To reserve a seat, please contact Fred or Keila at 902-687-4115, Cooper Institute at 902-894-4573 or email sourisareawildlife@gmail.com or cooperinstitute@eastlink.ca by Monday, May 27th. Travel and child/elder care subsidies are available on request.

The program will include presentations by biologists Daryl Guignon and Rosemary Curley, both of whom have spent many years exploring Prince Edward Island’s watersheds, fields and forests. There will also be time for active involvement of participants in discussions about land and water as sources of life, how land and water are threatened, why it matters, how we are working together as a community, and what more can be done to improve the health of our ecosystems.

The Social Justice Symposium is an annual event, held in memory of Father Andrew Macdonald, a founder of Cooper Institute and composer of many songs that celebrated the physical beauty of Prince Edward Island.

There is no fee for the forum. Refreshments are provided. Travel and child/elder care subsidies are available on request. To facilitate planning and seating, pre-registration is advised,. To pre-register contact Fred or Keila at 902-687-4115, or Marie at 902-894-4573, or email cooperinstitute@eastlink.ca by Monday, May 27.

June 1st Symposium to Mark World Oceans Week

Save our Seas and Shores PEI (a coalition of individuals, environmental and social justice groups, and organizations representing fishers and tourism operators) will mark World Oceans Week, which runs from June 1st to 8th with a symposium  – Celebrating and Protecting the Gulf of St. Lawrence – at the PEI Farm Centre on Saturday, June 1st, from 12:30 to 4:00 p.m.

The symposium will open with a poem by PEI’s Poet Laureate, Julie Pellissier-Lush.

Sylvain Archambault, co-founder of the St. Lawrence Coalition and biologist with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Québec, will present the keynote address, entitled “The Gulf of St. Lawrence, An Ecosystem Under Threat … In Need of Love”.

A panel of speakers will address The Diversity and Vulnerability of the Gulf: Biologist and Nature PEI President Rosemary Curley will talk about marine species at risk.  Troy Jerome from Gaspé, Québec will provide the perspective of a Mi’gmaq community leader with a wealth of experience on environmental, energy and fishing issues.  Producer Mary Gorman will present the newly-released short film, “The Vanishing Call of the Right Whale”, directed by Eliza Knockwood and narrated by Ethan Hawke.

A second panel, on Marine Protected Areas, Benefits and Challenges, will include Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director, Sierra Club Canada Foundation, who will also provide an update on the Ecojustice lawsuit to protect the Gulf from risky offshore drilling in the Old Harry oil and gas prospect. Marine ecologist Irené Novaczek will speak about the Basin Head Marine Protected Areas, which illustrates the environmental challenges facing the inshore areas of the Gulf and the importance of MPAs.  Bob Creed, Deputy Minister, Department of Fisheries and Communities, will speak about PEI’s current and future marine conservation areas.

The Gulf is a truly unique, diverse and rich ecosystem but it is threatened by many different factors: warming of the water, acidification, oxygen depletion, invasive species, pollution, habitat destruction, underwater noise and oil and gas exploration activities. While there is no single solution to such problems, marine protected areas do offer some hope.

Opportunities for questions from the audience and a refreshment break will be provided. This event is open to the public  and there is no admission fee although donations, to help cover the costs of the event, will be gratefully accepted.

The details:

Saturday, June 1, 2019

12:30-4:00 pm

PEI Farm Centre, 420 University Avenue, Charlottetown

For more information, email ann@cooperinstitute.ca.

Leaders’ Forum on Environmental Issues – April 8

ALL-PARTY LEADERS’ FORUM ON THE ENVIRONMENT

leaders' forum on the environmentPeter Bevan-Baker (Green Party of PEI), Joe Byrne (New Democratic Party of PEI), Dennis King (Progressive Conservative Party of PEI) and Wade MacLauchlan (Liberal Party of PEI) will take part in a forum on environmental issues on Monday, April 8th. The forum will be moderated by Dr Carolyn Peach-Brown, Chair of Environmental Studies at UPEI.

The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water is one of twenty groups that have collaborated to organize this forum. Groups were asked to submit questions on a wide range of topics, and these will be addressed by each of the leaders. In addition there will be time for questions from the audience.

This is an important forum, a chance to hear how each party proposes to address ongoing threats to our water, oceans, lands and forests and the urgency of climate change. 

Monday, April 8th, 7-9 pm, in the Alex H. MacKinnon Auditorium, Room 242 of McDougall Hall on the UPEI campus.

Please help is get the word out by sharing the facebook event:
https://www.facebook.com/events/495928540811861/

Cavendish Farms Research Proposal Would Require 3 New High Capacity Wells

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And here’s the full proposal.

In November of 2018, Robert Irving appeared before the Standing Committee on Communities, Land and the Environment. He had been asked to speak about his corporation’s land holdings but he really never did get around to that. There were other things on his mind. Once again he demanded that the moratorium on high capacity wells be lifted, to allow for a research project involving 3 watershed groups and UPEI and government researchers. Read the full research proposal here. At the same meeting he asked for land limits under the Lands Protection Act to be effectively doubled.

Here’s what Marie Ann Bowden from the Coalition said in a Letter to the Editor, after the Charlottetown Guardian published an editorial in support of Irving’s project idea:

EDITOR:

The Guardian editorial of December 5, “A sensible suggestion,” clearly supports the proclaimed commitment to environmental sustainability expressed by Cavendish Farms. While I salute the editor’s optimism, it raises a few questions:

The province has indicated that the moratorium on high capacity wells for agriculture will remain in place at least until 2021, when the research of Dr. Mike Van den Heuval and the Canadian Rivers Institute is completed. No new high capacity wells should be considered or permitted until that time.

If this proposal were to be accepted, and the water drawn from these wells used to irrigate agricultural lands, would this simply be a happy byproduct of “determining the impacts of agricultural irrigation on the water table”? And if Island water sources are shown to be “at risk” as a result, how would those negative impacts be addressed?

The editor states, “The Irvings are successful because they make sound, and sometimes hard, business decisions.” So when exactly does a “pilot” project undertaken in the name of sustainability become a hard business decision to irrigate more agricultural lands, and circumvent a moratorium on deep water wells endorsed by Islanders?

Let’s call “a spade, a spade” or in this case ” a spud, a spud.” The proposal requires violating the moratorium. The “sensible suggestion” is that government should simply reject it on that basis alone – no matter who is making the application.

Marie Ann Bowden,
Charlottetown

 

Coalition Meeting, January 7

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Happy Holidays!

You are invited to a general meeting of the Coalition for Protection of PEI Water on Monday, January 7th, 7:00 pm at the PEI Farm Centre.

A few members of the Coalition will meet with Minister of Environment, Richard Brown on January 3rd – a lot of time has elapsed since we’ve heard anything about the Water Act and its regulations, so we’re hoping to be able to provide some kind of update on the 7th.

There will also be time to share ideas/concerns about issues that we might want to take action on, and to talk about organizing for the next election.