Protect Chilliwack Water!

“Once contaminated, it is unlikely that the aquifer could be remediated adequately to use for drinking water purposes again.”

 

We didn’t get an opportunity to keep chlorine out of Chilliwack drinking water. Let’s not miss the chance to keep Tar Sands oil out! Tell the Fraser Valley Regional District to have the National Energy Board make approval of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project conditional on a route change away from Chilliwack’s drinking water wells!

 

pipeline (yellow) over aquifer (blue)The City of Chilliwack chose the role of commenter in the National Energy Board hearing on the Trans Mountain pipeline project. In that role the City gets to file one letter of comment in the hearing. It was suggested that Chilliwack concerns could also be addressed through the Fraser Valley Regional District’s engagement in the process as an intervenor. Intervenors get to file two information requests to Kinder Morgan as well as written evidence, an oral summary, and a written argument-in-chief.

 

At the time of that decision Chilliwack’s Mayor said “What we are asking for first and foremost is protection of the Sardis Aquifer, since that’s our drinking water”. Unfortunately both the City’s letter of comment and the FVRD information requests fall short of protecting the drinking water on which 76,000 Chilliwack residents and businesses, as well as Yarrow Waterworks, depend.

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Securing Our Water Wealth

Fresh water has been on the minds of British Columbians through much of 2015. Record low snowpacks, almost unprecedented drought and wildfires, and the provincial government in early stages of implementing BC's new Water Sustainability Act have all contributed to growing recognition that even in BC we cannot take freshwater for granted.

cary_vedder_300w.jpgWith the Water Sustainability Act, the first major overhaul of BC water law in over a century, we have the opportunity to match how we manage water with how we value water. Not just in terms of economic value, but also widely held cultural, ecological and spiritual values. One of the most significant changes is that we will at last consider the role of groundwater in the water cycle and in our water use.

The Water Sustainability Act (WSA) is enabling legislation, a framework within which regulations being developed now and over the next several years will secure our water future for generations to come--or not.

What we do next is critical, and we have an opportunity now to provide vital input on groundwater regulations.

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BC Climate Action Consultation

BC's Climate Action Consultation survey closes today at 4pm
(That was August 17, 2015. This post is as written for that time)

UPDATE: Due to strong demand the province has extended the climate consultation to September 14, 2015. Email comments to climateleadershipplan@gov.bc.ca

takethesurvey.jpgThe survey provided is mostly check-box form which could be argued to provide an easy format for people to engage.  On the other hand it can also box in the discussion to the choices provided. The meat of this survey is the final question, which is a text box where you can write in whatever you want to say.

Climate change is an overarching concern in terms of water in BC. While a great many human activities impact water in particular locations, climate impacts water quality and availability throughout  the province.

The survey asks British Columbians to consider ways we might reduce carbon emissions, and it is vital that we do so. We must not forget though, that there are changes already 'baked in' to the climate system. Even if we reduced emissions drastically today, there are important actions that need to be taken to mitigate impacts that are already happening.

Some examples:

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Mount Polley, One Year After

Today, August 4, 2015, marks the anniversary of the tailings dam breach at Mount Polley. The worst mining disaster in scale, though thankfully not in loss of life, in Canada’s history.

It was a shock to WaterWealth's Ian Stephen to watch early that August 2014 morning the video of tailings raging down what had been Hazeltine Creek. Just one week earlier Ian and his siblings had laid their father's ashes to rest on that mountain1.

The impacts of the disaster were very personal in much more direct ways for many who live around Quesnel Lake or the river that flows from it, for people who rely on those waters for their livelihood, their drinking water, or for the food fisheries the Quesnel system support.

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#MYHOMEWATERS

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"Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water,  the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects."
-- Dalai Lama, Twitter 10 May 2013

 

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The Evolution of BC Water Pricingpricing_paper_cropped.jpg

Where we are with it, how we got here, and why it matters in the real world.

Work at WaterWealth sometimes feels like canoeing big waves. A storm somewhere creates the conditions, there is a period of intense activity as a wave hits, and then (we hope!) a bit of calm after, until the next one. So it goes with the issue of water rental rates under the Water Sustainability Act (WSA).

The rental rates are a big deal. With the province choosing a cost-recovery model for the WSA, getting those rental rates right is critical to putting wind in the sails of BC’s new water law. It’s the difference between an ineffective piece of paper in Victoria or the kind of planning and management that can secure water for the needs of our children and our children’s children. A budget for more than just handing out licences.

The first wave...

The province recognized the importance of getting the water rates right, and in what became the first wave of activity for WaterWealth specifically on the issue of pricing, the province held a public consultation in early 2014. The government published a discussion paper that outlined seven principles, among them a principle of cost recovery.

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A Question of Process

Grassroots Challenging Big Money

"Chilliwack turns down $800,000 donation from oil pipeline giant Kinder Morgan"

"Chilliwack says no to $800G but Kinder Morgan still optimistic"

You may have seen those headlines. It was a win for Chilliwack that demonstrated both that residents are engaged and that City Council are up to taking a principled stand in the face of a very tempting industry offer.

The Backstory...

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Running Water

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“I have a voice, I have legs, and I’m committed to using them to make change.”

 

Monday, June 1 2015, Gwich’in ultra-marathon runner Caribou Legs will embark on a 4400 kilometre run from Vancouver to Ottawa to draw attention to the tens of thousands of lakes and rivers threatened by pipelines, fracking, mining and extreme energy project across the country. When he arrives in Ottawa, Caribou Legs will call on MPs to restore legislative protection for our lakes and rivers. Please sign and share the #Pledge2Protect petition supporting Caribou Legs' message.

 

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Is Kinder Morgan Trying to Bribe Our City?

Jump to post-Council meeting update (original text left here for context)

Tomorrow, Tuesday May 19th, 2015, the City of Chilliwack will decide whether or not to receive $800,000 from the Texas-based energy giant Kinder Morgan who is pushing for a controversial new pipeline through our community. Also on offer according to the City staff report is an undetermined but “substantial’ amount of money to be paid to the University of the Fraser Valley. There has been no public discussion on this decision, which was announced only Friday, and there remain unanswered questions about the implications of taking the money, or even considering the offer at this time.

Regardless of the risks associated with transporting the heavy oil, it is very concerning that any participant who has yet to submit evidence in a regulatory process is being offered large sums of money that hinge on the outcome of that regulatory process. That sounds a lot like a bribe.

In Chilliwack’s case, the money would be paid only if Kinder Morgan get a ‘yes’ from the National Energy Board on their new pipeline, directly aligning city interests with the fossil fuel giant.  The City are a ‘commenter’ in the National Energy Board (NEB) hearing process on that pipeline. The deadline for commenters to file their letters is still months away and the City has not submitted theirs or made public what it might contain.

One can only wonder how knowledge that the Mayor and Council have signed on to a million dollar deal that depends on Kinder Morgan getting the decision they want from the NEB would weigh on the minds of staff as they prepare the City’s evidence for the NEB review panel.

Where is the engagement with citizens?

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Water - What Price is Right?

Chilliwack_WaterWealth_rally_May_12_2013_225w.jpgAfter intense campaigning by WaterWealth and others, the pressure of public attention provided the push to finally get the new Water Sustainability Act passed early in 2014, the first new Water Act in over 100 years. Deborah Corran of the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre called the B.C. Water Sustainability Act “Overall, one of the best pieces of environmental legislation in the past 15 years”. That’s the potential.

We need to act now to make that potential a reality.

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