November 2017 Update

november_33.jpgNovember was a whirlwind month for WaterWealth.
We like to get these updates out just before the end of the month, but lately it's been too much to do, not enough days! Can we pretend this is November 33rd?

November was a month full of streamkeeping field work, pipeline process, and that dam Site C. It was also a month full of rainy days, with Metro Vancouver recording 27 days of rain to match the record set for November back in 1953!

Streamkeeping: local efforts with province-wide goals

WaterWealth streamkeepers welcomed the rains in Chilliwack as parched forests first soaked it up and finally streams began to rise. Chilliwack residents who frequent the trails along the well established salmon spawning grounds of Peach Creek were saying in October that they had never seen it so low. Much of its length there was no surface water at all! But as the water rose, so came the salmon and in November spawning Chum could be found all along Peach Creek.

WaterWealth volunteers spent a good many rainy November days out with Pearson Ecological, members of Soowahlie First Nation, local residents, and visitors from various other organizations and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, doing spawner counts, fish trapping, and water quality testing. Fish traps are placed overnight and the next day fish are identified, counted, and released. One trap in Hope Slough had 1025 fish including 973 3-spined stickleback, 16 pumpkinseed, 2 carp, 1 crayfish, 13 redside shiner, 6 largescale sucker, 8 northern pikeminnow, and 6 grassy minnowprickly_sculpin.jpg! It was fun sharing the experiences with groups that ranged from beginner to professional and aged from toddlers to seniors. All the while adding to the body of knowledge of these waterways to support good land use and stewardship decisions.
 
While the local data is important, what is particularly exciting to WaterWealth about this work is the two year goal to find the sweet spot of scientific rigor and accessibility to enable greater quantity and quality of community water monitoring province-wide. A marriage of professional technical capacity with local knowledge and experience that comes from those who love their home waters and who may, particularly for First Nations, have maintained connections to those waters over many generations.

Great pictures of the work and the amazing diversity of life found in various sites around the Fraser Valley are available on the Pearson Ecological's Facebook page and Flickr account.

Hope for Wild Salmon

November 16 Fisheries and Oceans Canada held a Wild Salmon Policy public consultation at Tzeachten Community Center. The evening event was the best attended of DFO's series of consultations. Chilliwack residents and members of groups like Watershed Watch, Wild Salmon Defenders Alliance, Fraser Valley Salmon Society and more turned out.silver_crk_sockeye.jpg Those in attendance ranged from professionals in the field to people who came just to learn something about the issue. What they all shared in common was awareness that wild salmon are keystone species that are culturally, ecologically, and economically vital to the West Coast. The Federal government are taking public feedback on the Wild Salmon Policy until December 15. Please do take a few minutes to have your say. You don't have to be a salmon expert. DFO have those on staff. But often what government staff need is for the public to have their backs so political masters will direct them to do what they already know needs doing. You can find plenty of information and a form to add your input on Watershed Watch's website.

Kinder Morgan, too Powerful to Regulate?

Speaking of Salmon, the issue of Kinder Morgan's anti-spawning mats is still an open file. Not a lot to report though. The wheels turn slowly.

Various organizations and individuals wrote the NEB and other authorities on the issue. When ordered by the NEB to stop installing the spawning deterrents, Kinder Morgan initially asked to be excused from the law, then withdrew that request. After Kinder Morgan withdrew the request the NEB declared everyone's letters on the matter moot. Authors of the letters and of letters that had been sent specifically about the withdrawal disagreed. The NEB responded with a letter that boiled down to "We'll get back to you."

And get back to us they did, on December 1 (so yes a little in the future if we're calling this November 33rd winky.png ) with a letter that didn't really say anything new. The good news though is that they did share some of the documents relating to the issue that had not been public previously, and also in that letter promised to make their field report public. We await that with interest.img_9033_dogwood.jpg
Provincially, the Environmental Assessement Office, Oil and Gas Commission, Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, and Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy are investigating. WaterWealth Program Director Ian Stephen was in Victoria recently to meet with provincial staff and raised the issue of the spawning deterrents. The Province are definitely feeling the public concern (thanks to everyone who has phoned, written or emailed, you are making a difference!) but about all they were willing to say is that they're looking into it. They seemed proud that they got to the sites ahead of the NEB's inspectors, but the fact that it was about 6 weeks after they were notified and a day or two after fed-up citizens went and removed some of the mats made talk of the provincial site visit fall rather flat.

fall-chinook-salmon_300.jpgSo we have yet to see what, if anything, the Province will do about premature construction activity and unauthorized in-stream work. Continuing to let the government know that British Columbians care and expect spawning not to be interferred with at the whim of big industry helps. Letter-writing tools are available from Georgia Strait Alliance, Dogwood, and Coast Protectors. As a slightly tongue-in-cheek prod on the issue, WaterWealth sent a letter to FLNRORD, who administer the Water Sustainability Act for those of us who are not an oil or gas corporation, based on musing "What if we all played by the rules multi-billion dollar international industry players envision for themselves?" You can check out that letter on our blog post "What's sauce for the goose...."

Luck or Planning, a Community's Future

Another hot topic in conversations with the Province was the Kinder Morgan detailed route hearings, and particularly the situation in Chilliwack. Currently in Chilliwack there is a realignment hearing in which Kinder Morgan are trying to move the part of the new pipeline that is closest to City drinking water wells even closer. realignment.jpgThe realignment, if approved, would also move that portion of the pipeline out of a BC Hydro right-of-way to instead cross an elementary school and run between houses through residential areas west of the school. WaterWealth is an intervenor in the realignment hearing, as is the City which has changed its tune from less than a year ago when they were saying the best route across Chilliwack was Kinder Morgan's route, and now join WaterWealth in calling for the route to be moved off of the aquifer.

The realignment is less than two kilometres. The opportunity to deal with the pipeline route more broadly across Chilliwack will come in the yet to be announced detailed route hearings for route segment 6 (Chilliwack is traversed by subsegments 6.2, 6.3, and 6.4). In those hearings we will be seeking not only to protect City drinking water wells, schools and residential areas, but the entire Sardis-Vedder Aquifer, salmon habitat enhancement areas of Peach Creek and Browne Creek Wetlands, the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve and Yarrow Waterworks wells.
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Great White North or Wild West?

Another aspect of the Kinder Morgan project that WaterWealth has not engaged in but which has implications along the length of the project and even nationally is a motion and Constitutional question filed by Kinder Morgan regarding local and provincial government permits. You will see this issue talked about in media mostly as being about company allegations of permit delays in Burnaby, but really it seeks to circumvent normal procedures of democratically elected provincial and local governments broadly, along the entire route of the project.

Beyond Burnaby, the City of Surrey said in a letter to the NEB "Surrey further submits that Trans Mountain's notice of motion should be seen for what it is, namely, an attempt to unlawfully fetter, circumvent and undermine the legislative scheme to the detriment of municipalities, their residents and the public in general...."

The Township of Langley wrote "The detailed route of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TEMP) in the Township has not yet been determined. Therefore, the Township and Trans Mountain have not yet finalized the permits, which the Township expects Trans Mountain to apply for in respect to the TMEP." They call Trans Mountain's motion premature and unnecessary.

The City of Chilliwack has made every effort to have a good relationship with Kinder Morgan only to be rebuffed with the realignment application which initially even proposed to drill the pipeline 20 metres deep into the aquifer. Having been basically forced by the company to defend its residents' interests, Chilliwack also weighed in on the motion regarding provincial and municipal permits. Among its arguments the City pointed out that in Chilliwack it is Kinder Morgan, not the City, that has been holding things up. In negotiations on road crossings the City sent its comments to Kinder Morgan July 21 and had yet to receive a response as of the November 27 letter to the NEB. The City also pointed out various ways the process requested by Kinder Morgan could disadvantage other permit applicants and undermine due diligence by the City in processing permits. Chilliwack joined others in asking the NEB to refuse Kinder Morgan's motion.

houston_nozone_1_325.jpgAll of this on the heels of Kinder Morgan getting their hand slapped by the NEB for premature construction with the unauthorized spawning deterrent installations. Hopefully on this permitting issue the NEB will reign in Kinder Morgan and let them know that unlike Houston Texas where development proceeds unhindered by pesky things like zoning bylaws, BC is not the wild west.

Keep the Peace

Also in November WaterWealth turned some attention North to get involved in the Site C dam controversy. A provincial decision on the project is said to be imminent and WaterWealth joined many other organizations and many thousands of individual British Columbians in calling on the Province to put an end to the project. Putting BC ratepayers on the hook for costs that have escalated to estimates as high as $12.7-billion for what began as a $7.9-billion project is an awfully costly make-work project for temporary work-camp jobs. In the end we would have a dam producing surplus power that seems likely to sell at a loss. In addition to the poor economics the project would cost us some of the best farmland in Northern B.C. just as growing regions are moving north due to climate change.

Large dams like Site C had their day in the early and mid 20th century. In the 21st century many jurisdictions are removing such dams to open up rivers again and we have many options for generating electrical energy that could provide lasting jobs in communities throughout the province,peace_valley.jpg putting power production and the jobs related to it close to where the energy is consumed and where workers and their families live. We hope the Province will offer leadership with a 21st century vision for B.C. rather than throwing good money after bad on Site C. StopSiteC.org has a list of links to help you help stop the Site C boondoggle.

Source Water Protection

A bit of a bright note provincially--although at least some local people don't think it goes far enough--the recommendation report on the Hullcar Aquifer was released November 30. Titled "From Crisis to Solutions: Towards Better Source Water Protection and Nutrient Management in the Hullcar Valley" the recommendation report looks at the situation at the Hullcar Aquifer in the North Okanagan where residents have been under a drinking water advisory since 2014. The report also goes on to look at avoiding source water contamination in other high-risk areas across B.C.

Need the Info!

Also in November water news, the Real Estate Foundation of BC released a report titled "Murky Waters, Taking a Snapshot of Freshwater Sustainability in BC" which calls attention to the fact that data on the state of BC’s rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands is largely incomplete, out of date, or unreliable (bringing this update full circle back to long term goals of WaterWealth's streamkeeping program). The report found that combined effects from agriculture, forestry, fracking and mining activities have shaken public confidence in the health of B.C.’s freshwater ecosystems. Among the report's recommendations: raise the rates for industrial water use to ensure adequate funding for water management and implementation of the Water Sustainability Act, legislate protection of environmental flows, and updated sustainability-focused provincial freshwater policy.

Looking Ahead!

OK, now we can start December! This month will remain focused largely on the Kinder Morgan project as WaterWealth prepares for oral hearings on Kinder Morgan's realignment application coming early next year, and supports commenters in the hearing to prepare their letters of comment for January 4. We'll also be thinking about 2018, looking at how to make our streamkeeping program more robust, thinking about how to engage more fully on Water Sustainability Act implementation issues while still keeping up the work on the Kinder Morgan project through the yet to be announced detailed route hearings for segment 6, and planning to support friends and allies like the Chilliwack Vedder River Cleanup Society, SOS Save Our Slough , and Chilliwack Cleanup--who do tons (quite literally) of cleanup along the rivers--in all the good work they do.

And maybe we'll work on a bit of a wish list for Santa. Some new waders to replace the ones the blackberry bushes ate, time to do the streamkeeping section of the website (can Santa put time in a stocking?), a collaborative solution to riparian management and nutrient loading in the Fraser Valley, safe drinking water for all....

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