Water Sustainability Act Update March 2019

You may have seen the news February 19, 2019 that the Province extended the waiver of water licence application fees for existing groundwater users. The exemption was originally from February 29, 2016 to March 1, 2017, the first year of a three year transition period for existing non-domestic groundwater users to get into the licencing system.

Then the exemption got extended to December 31, 2017.water_drop_sad_50w.jpg

Then it got extended to March 1, 2019

Then it got extended to March 1, 2022.

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TMX Update March 2019

The NEB reconsideration on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project gave us a bit of a rest from that issue. Yet in some ways heightened urgency arose for the project broadly, and in Chilliwack specifically.

1,355 Watercourse Crossings. How many will they pave?

stewart creek before
Stewart Creek before.

In 2010 Trans Mountain found that their pipe had become exposed by erosion in Stewart Creek in Yarrow. They didn’t report it to the NEB until 2018 when they filed an Operations and Maintenance notice for repairs. Stewart Creek is heavily impacted by diversion and channeling, resulting in a habitat-poor stream overall. Even so, species found in the stream include Rainbow Trout, Steelhead, Cutthroat Trout, Coho, Chum, Peamouth, Brassy Minnow, Redside Shiner, Northern Pikeminnow, Prickly Sculpin, Threespine Stickleback, Lamprey, Pumpkinseed, Brown Bullhead, and Green Frog. The pipeline crosses Stewart Creek on the property of the Yarrow Ecovillage. Ecovillage residents had worked hard at habitat restoration along the stream on their property, creating an area of rich, diverse habitat where the greatest densities of salmon fry and other aquatic life are found.

It was here that to fix their exposed pipe Trans Mountain turned part of the stream into a brick half-pipe.

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Streamkeepers tackle Climate!

WaterWealth really had no role in the water bottling issue in the Chilliwack River Valley, other than to respond to requests for information (see blog post "A Win for Local Organizing"). Coincidentally though, we may soon be spending a lot more time in the Chilliwack River watershed with a new climate monitoring program!onset_mx2201.jpg

Inspired by the work of US Forest Service Research Fish Biologist Dan Isaak and enabled by the introduction of research-grade temperature loggers at significantly lower cost and greater ease of use than previous models. Once funding is confirmed and pending input and go-ahead from the Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe in whose territory the program is proposed to take place, we will begin monitoring hourly temperatures of the Chilliwack River and 30+ tributaries.

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A Win for Local Organizing

bc_bottled_water_550.png(click for larger image in a new window)

The graph above is for bottling of plain freshwater in BC. It doesn't include mineral water or flavoured water drinks. It also doesn’t include any licences that haven’t shown up in publicly available provincial records yet, such as Nestlé and Vancouver Water Enterprises (formerly Pacific Water International) and unknown numbers of others. Even without those it’s clear freshwater bottling and export are growth industries in BC, to the consternation of many who think that the harms of putting water into plastic bottles to sell around the world and risks of doing so under BC's regulatory regime outweigh the benefits.

Recently, a classic case of grassroots community organizing put a cork in one water extraction proposal in the Chilliwack River Valley.

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NEB weakens conditions

So, as everyone knew they would, the NEB today again recommended approval of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.

km_vedder_fisher.jpgThe NEB started the reconsideration by limiting it to 12 nautical miles rather than the 200 nautical miles across which Canada is responsible for environmental protection. That following a request for comments that fell on a holiday long weekend and in which every participant except the governments of Canada and Alberta and the company called for the scope to include the 200 nautical mile Economic Exclusion Zone or further.

A key topic of the reconsideration was Orcas and the salmon that make up the orca's diet, most of which are Chinook salmon that pass up and down the Fraser. It was chilling that while the reconsideration was under way the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada designated seven more of those Chinook runs as endangered.

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Turbulent Currents

WaterWealth supports the Constitutionally protected and Supreme Court affirmed right of the Wet'suwet'en to uphold their Aboriginal rights and title on their territories according to their traditional governance. Governance that predates Canada and in which those rights and title are vested.

Rifle toting RCMP are not what reconciliation looks like.

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Letter to NEB re Kinder Morgan water crossings

Trans Mountain has filed a request for 26 watercourse crossings on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project to be evaluated for Fisheries Act authorizations for contingency crossing methods. The NEB requested additional information. Oddly, in their response Kinder Morgan seem to indicate many proposed watercourse crossing timings that have already begun, or even already passed.

In light of the pipeline not having been approved for construction yet, and the current situation of drought and wildfires in B.C., WaterWealth filed the following letter with the NEB requesting clarifications and for the NEB to evaluate these watercourse crossings based on current, not historical, conditions.

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Water Issues Heat Up with Summer


Strong parallels appear between local and global water issues as a global heatwave exacerbates freshwater stresses. Algae blooms affect many waters, leading to fish and aquatic mammal die-offs and warnings for people to avoid contact with the water. Record heat drives wild fires around the globe, releasing large amounts of carbon and diminishing the ability of the land to hold water between periods of precipitation -- at the same time that intense precipitation is causing washouts and flooding such as was seen in Toronto August 7th. A recreational Fraser Sockeye fishery was announced at the same time that news appeared that the Fraser River was getting too warm and high pre-spawn mortality rates might be expected. 

Yet for all these stresses there are people stepping up to respond!


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Trudeau Government Buys Kinder Morgan's Failing Pipeline

A81964-2_Appendix_C_-_Overall_Map_Showing_the_PPBoR_Segments_-_A5J2R1.jpgThe Trudeau government today committed all of us to buy the entire Trans Mountain pipeline system and expansion project. This has many serious implications for everyone in Canada.

Easy to see are the costs, which will stretch from the initial $4.5-billion purchase price to at least $11.9-billion to get through construction. That figure is based on cost estimates that Kinder Morgan did not update for their Kinder Morgan Inc and Kinder Morgan Canada AGMs, both of which were this month. Care to hazard a guess why they didn't update those estimates? That figure is also only correct if a Crown corporation can build something like the expansion project without cost overruns. (Kidding! Of course there will be cost overruns!)

Less certain are questions around the on-going NEB processes and conditions compliance. Some NEB conditions are specific to the company's contracts and financial arrangements. There are route hearings that won't be finished until at least October. With the government to take ownership in August, how will those NEB processes and commitments be transfered or replaced?

pa110223_sm.jpgAlso uncertain are the implications for Canada's international standing on climate and Indigenous rights and reconciliation, and the spill risks inherent in the 65-year old legacy pipeline that runs through ecologically and economically vital areas on its way from Northern Alberta to the Southwest corner of BC. Kinder Morgan has done repairs in hundreds of locations on the old pipe in recent years, in some places patching and in some places replacing the old pipe. That work has not been done in the populated areas of the Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver where it will be most difficult and expensive and where the costs of a spill would be greatest.

Today's announcement seems like a very smart move for Kinder Morgan. Somehow the Trudeau government seem to think it's a good investment for Canadians. As for WaterWealth's role, to date the federal government have been able to keep the concerns of families in the path of the pipeline at arms length, pointing that outstretched arm at the company and NEB processes. Now as the (soon to be) new owners, will our own government be more responsive to these concerns than Kinder Morgan was?

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Residents Sidelined

Burnaby gets a lot of press in relation to Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Expansion Project. Meanwhile Chilliwack actually produced the greatest number of statements of opposition to the route of the project, with almost half of all statements filed with the NEB on the over 1100 km project.

Typically each person who files a statement of opposition that meets the requirements of the NEB Act gets a hearing to make their case before an NEB panel. How would the NEB handle the volume of statements of opposition filed from Chilliwack?

sign_and_wells_300w.jpgWell, they'd exclude almost everyone from the detailed route process, declaring concerns about our drinking water sources to be "general concerns". Which is what they did March 13. Incredibly they issued the hearing order for our area without having ruled on Kinder Morgan's realignment application in one of the most critical parts of the proposed route in Chilliwack! It's a vital time to give the City your input. Contact info at the bottom of this post!

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