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.”

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.”

———-
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?

———-



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
———–
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
———-

The Department of Environment webpage cited is here
and a screenshot is below:

March 5th, 2014

A Standing Committee meeting tomorrow, starting at 1PM, at the Coles Building next to Province House, with presentations (I think) from the National Farmers’ Union, The PEI Watershed Alliance, Central Queen’s Wildlife Federation/West River, The Innovative Farms Group, and the Green Party PEI.  If you can drop by for a little bit, that will support (most of) these groups and show the politicians that people are interested in this issue.

Wit, clarity, a warning to us all:  In yesterday’s Guardian:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2014-03-04/article-3633351/Unique-approach-to-selling-wells/1

Unique approach to selling wells
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on March 04, 2014

Editor:
I would like to congratulate the P.E.I. Potato Board on their information ad, Thursday, Feb 27. I did not realize that by allowing deep-well drilling it would be a solution to the nitrate problem on P.E.I.
Too bad they did not come forward sooner with this approach. Their perspective that this is a lot of storm about a very small issue, that it will not take much water, and letʼs just trust them and the government to do the right thing is a little hard to take.
As many letters to the editor have pointed out both the industryʼs and governmentʼs track records on this have not been good. We have been though all this before with Plan B and I see the same outcome. In fact I will wager money that the government will approve this plan. Then we can wait for the ads about how great fracking will be for the island.
Carol Capper,
Summerside

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A quick Lands Protection Act note:

from page 11 of Mr. Carver’s report (spacing mine):

THE CURRENT LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK
While the purpose of the Act is clear and easy to understand, the legislative framework, consisting of the Act and the Regulations, is very complex and difficult to understand, even for those who deal with it on a regular basis. Few individuals and corporations make application, or even complete mandatory reports, without help from accountants and lawyers.

The legislative framework consists of a total of 88 pages:
the Act itself is 13 pages long
(http://www.gov.pe.ca/law/statutes/pdf/l– 05.pdf);
the Forms Regulations, 47 pages
(http://www.gov.pe.ca/law/regulations/pdf/L &05-2.pdf);
the Exemption Regulations, 22 pages
(http://www.gov.pe.ca/law/regulations/ pdf/L&05-1.pdf);
and the Land Identification Regulations, 6 pages
(http://www.gov.pe.ca/ law/regulations/pdf/L&05-3.pdf).

February 6th, 2014

Today’s Guardian covers the involvement of lobbyists in the high capacity well issue.
Yesterday was a meeting of the Legislative Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry.  They were just supposed to plan the schedule for requests for presentations from groups concerned about high capacity wells.  It sounds like the PC Opposition (which is different then one of them first said) *did* meet with the lobbyists, but not Mr. Chris LeClair (Premier Ghiz’s former chief of staff).  The bolding is mine:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2014-02-05/article-3604792/Call-for-lobbyists-to-testify-leads-to-fiery-debate/1

Call for lobbyists to testify leads to fiery debate
by Teresa Wright
printed in The Guardian on February 6th, 2014
A fiery meeting of MLAs on the contentious issue of deep-water irrigation wells ended Wednesday with a majority vote against calling two politically connected lobbyists to testify.
Opposition MLA Colin LaVie wanted the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry to call the premierʼs former chief of staff, Chris LeClair, and former Liberal MLA Cynthia King to appear.
The two have been hired by the Potato Board and Cavendish Farms to co-ordinate meetings with as many provincial MLAs as possible to lobby in favour of lifting the current moratorium on irrigation wells.
LaVieʼs request led to a heated exchange between government and Opposition MLAs Wednesday, especially when it came to light LeClair did not attend meetings with the Tory caucus or with Independent MLA Olive Crane, but did atend meetings with Liberal MLAs.
“They didnʼt see fit to attend our (meeting). Why?” said Opposition MLA James Aylward.
“I think this committee, Islanders in general, deserve to know what these lobbyists are doing, what their agenda is.”
Liberal backbencher Kathleen Casey argued calling the P.E.I. Potato Board to the committee would suffice, since the board was one of the parties that engaged LeClair.
Liberal MLA Pat Murphy accused the Tories of playing politics on the issue of deep-water wells, which he said is a “very important issue to the province.”
But Opposition Leader Steven Myers frequently interrupted them.
“He was the premierʼs right-hand-man, heʼs lobbying on behalf of the potato industry, letʼs have him here,” he said.
“Does having Chris LeClair involved with this give whoever it is thatʼs lobbying for deep water wells… a direct line to the decision maker of this province. Thatʼs the question.
“It just screams political interference. I donʼt know why you wouldnʼt want to know if someone is trying to directly influence the premier.”
The only Liberal MLA who supported the idea of calling the two to testify was Buck Watts, who said he felt it was the only way they could clarify their roles and not continue to polarize the committee.
“After hearing the way this meeting is starting out, I think we should bring Cynthia King and Chris LeClair in to clear their name and find out exactly what they were doing, why they were doing it… who were they hired by, who were they paid by, whatʼs their reason for doing it,” Watts said.
“Weʼre going to be into a bloody mess all through if we donʼt get this straightened out off the bat, get this cleaned up, get this off the plate.”
But in the end, the request was denied in a vote of 4-3, with Watts voting with LaVie and Aylward. Casey, Murphy, Bush Dumville and Hal Perry defeated the motion.
After the meeting, LaVie said he believes the Liberals on the committee were the ones playing politics.
“Itʼs another sign theyʼve got something to hide,” he said.
“Theyʼre making a political issue out of it, and they said in the meeting they didnʼt want to make it political – then put them at the table. Let us hear it.”
The committee did, however agree to LaVieʼs request to call Environment Minister Janice Sherry to appear. The committee will further be delving into the hot-button issue of deep well irrigation for the next two months, with weekly meetings planned until the end of March.
After that, public consultations will be held to ensure all Islanders have the chance to voice their opinions.

———-

And finally, in a sea of well-crafted, heartfelt letters about this high capacity well issue, this evocative one:

http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/Opinion/Letter-to-editor/2014-02-05/article-3603960/Using-more-water-won%26rsquo%3Bt-help-matters/1

Using more water wonʼt help matters
Letters to the Editor (The Guardian)
Published on February 05, 2014

Editor:
More water, more potatoes, more environmental degradation.
Since the science says P.E.I.ʼs deep- water supply can grow more potatoes, whatʼs the guarantee it will be done more safely to enhance the environment?
And why hasnʼt science disproven the theory that what weʼre growing and how weʼre growing it may be connected to P.E.I.ʼs high cancer rate?
Weʼve been told for years that growing more potatoes, like catching more lobsters, results in lower prices in the marketplace where we are a mere drop in the bucket, compared to Idaho and Western Canada where soils are rich and deep.
Using more water wonʼt change farming methods. Choosing to use more water to mitigate poor farming practices wonʼt work to enhance worn out soil, and improve the environment everyone shares.
Letʼs ask some basic questions here of our government or any other party that wants to form one:
– How will pumping more water to grow 30,000 more acres of potatoes stop environmental degradation?
– How will 30,000 acres more make P.E.I. a better place to be in 2103 when weʼre all gone and weʼve left the mess to families following us?
– What ever happened to the Liberal philosophy of Canadaʼs youngest premier in 1966 who said “the faster we go, the more behinder weʼll get”? Alex Campbell was 32 and just last month Premier Robert Ghiz turned 40. I think our premier needs to talk with Alex soon about a vision that hasnʼt become a reality to make P.E.I. stronger, and a better place to live.
We must become more than just a province where former Islanders come home to retire and then die, in a dying environment.
In this small Island heaven, weʼve got to get our furrows “straighter” before we “drift” any further.
Lorne Yeo,
Argyle Shore