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We at WaterWealth extend our gratitude to all of the candidates who ran in the recent elections. To take up the challenge of campaigning and to be willing to take on the task of serving your community in an elected capacity for the next four years is a courageous and noble undertaking.

While water is essential to our economy as well as our ecology and is a major component of the quality of life we enjoy in the Fraser Valley, we recognize that our survey was but one of a great many requests to candidates on a vast range of issues. We thank the many candidates who took the time to respond to our survey. Based on feedback we received from the public it seems clear that those responses were well received and made a difference in votes for some. We also thank all the many volunteers who helped with campaigns and with the election process. It is such engagement that makes the places we live into communities we enjoy living in.

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Support for Caretakers of Burnaby Mountain

Yesterday WaterWealth joined 85 (and growing) other organizations in signing on to a letter of support. Specifically the letter expresses support for a Burnaby residents’ group and others opposing Kinder Morgan’s work on Burnaby Mountain. The issues go much deeper however, to issues of governance and free speech that are being played out on the ground and in the courts with ramifications for the whole country.

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Mount Polley Tailings Spill

A Disaster Close to Home

 

I was glad to be working at the WaterWealth office when I first heard the news of the Mount Polley tailings disaster. My dad would approve of my being at work on a holiday, and I felt somewhat better to be working for water rather than relaxing somewhere when I heard the news. It was strange to see that news with the knowledge of the personal connection Dad and I shared to what may prove to be the worst industrial disaster in BC history. A disaster involving a mine, that mine, and water.

 

 

dad_stoking_1945_200w.jpgDad grew up on a farm in Petersfield Manitoba during the Great Depression and the Second World War. The farm gave him the toughness to work in any conditions and a slightly crooked forearm from being thrown from a Clydesdale. He didn’t much like farming.

 

004_300w.jpgHis passion from a very early age was rocks and at the first opportunity he went to work in a mine, overstating his age to get a job underground at Central Patricia Gold Mines from 1947 to 1949.

 

Dad worked at several mines through the 1950s. Mom joined him, tolerating mining camp life and even living in tents a couple of Manitoba winters.

 

In 1960 they moved to BC where Dad had been offered a job prospecting, and in 1964 Dad and his friend Sam McBeath found the copper-gold deposit at Mount Polley.

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WaterWealth Project & MEC partner for Home Waters

At WaterWealth we believe that water is precious. We believe that our wealth is in our water -- the economic, physical, spiritual, cultural and ecological prosperity that water makes possible. The WaterWealth Project is about taking a fresh approach to economic well-being, one that respects the needs of all living beings and provides the foundation for healthy, thriving communities.

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Round one of the NEB Hearings on the Kinder Morgan Pipeline Proposal -- Gleanings & Questions

km_route.jpgThe deadline came fast for round one (of two) information requests in the National Energy Board review of Kinder Morgan's proposal to build a second Trans Mountain pipeline from Tar Sands country to Burnaby.

Things were hopping with WSA pricing consultations, Canada Water Week, Chilliwack Official Community Plan update, FVRD riparian areas changes (pdf), a Business Survey and more.  Even without all that, tackling Kinder Morgan's 15,000 page application was a formidable undertaking!  We dove in though, and what we found was eye-opening.

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WaterWealth Comment on Chilliwack's Draft OCP 2040

Re: WaterWealth Feedback on Chilliwack’s Official Community Plan 2040

Chilliwack is a special place to call home with a unique abundance of natural wealth. Of course with this wealth comes the responsibility of stewardship and we commend the City of Chilliwack for it’s efforts to develop a plan that ensure the best interest of local residents now and for years to come.
 
Although there are many positives in the Official Community Plan, there was an alarming absence in the lack of explicit recognition of the Sto:lo people who have lived, worked and settled in the region long before 1858. At WaterWealth we believe that to ensure effective policies and governance of our home region, recognition and reconciliation of First Nations rights and title is essential. Although the City of Chilliwack may not have formal jurisdiction to consult with First Nations, recognizing unique contributions of the communities and culture of the Sto:lo is an easy first step in being good neighbours. As it is mentioned in Policy 6 of Goal 1 to ‘Manage Growth Responsibility’ to co-ordinate with First Nations, we want to suggest that it be an overarching feature to ensure ongoing communication and coordination with Sto:lo Communities about City plans and policies that may impact them. We hold that those communities are the judge of what will impact them.

The Official Community Plan is an impressive document that highlights a tremendous amount of work undertaken by City Staff and the Community Participants. From the City of Chilliwack’s Official Community Plan (OCP) Community Survey, 97% of residents want to see the "protection of drinking water and local streams" as a top priority in the plan for city growth. It is clear that large efforts were made to reflect this in the OCP 2040 draft, and we offer our comments in the spirit of assisting staff in achieving their aims to translate the hopes of city residents they heard from into a plan for managed growth.

We note that under the heading "Utilities" the second objective is to "Secure long term water supply sources." This is supported by objective 6 "Adapt to future system and environmental challenges through innovative and best practices." The Sardis Aquifer that Chilliwack's municipal water system currently relies on is fed by the Chilliwack/Vedder River which is in turn fed by glaciers in North Cascades National Park. Given that glaciers in the Pacific Northwest have been receding since about 1850 (eg the Lyman Glacier which has lost about 60% of its volume since the early 20th century), and given the opposing vectors of climate and population trends, we suggest that these objectives would be supported by undertaking study to determine to what degree the Chilliwack/Vedder River relies on glacier runoff in dry parts of the year, what long term prospects for those glaciers can be expected, and what impact might be foreseeable for the aquifer.

We focus our following feedback on the Development Permit Areas, as we see them having the most direct influence on how our home waters will be managed in the future. We note that each Development Permit Area (DPA) section begins with a “Description and Exemptions” section under which the area that DPA applies to is specified. The Description and Exemptions section of DPA 1 refers only to DPA Maps 1A and 1B which outline municipal watershed areas and aquifers. It would seem that this section should also specify DPA maps 1C and 1D as being designated DPA 1, can you confirm that this is an oversight in the document or inform us of the rationale for leaving it out?

In DPA 2, which refers to hillside and upland areas, we appreciate Guideline 1 which provides the additional requirement of 9 meters of undisturbed stream bank vegetation from the top of the bank of fish bearing or fish habitat streams. We would like to see similar or greater protection extended to all fish bearing or fish habitat waterways throughout Chilliwack. There are many such channelized streams in agricultural areas within Chilliwack. Creative solutions could improve fish habitat, reduce erosion of farmers’ fields, and reduce nutrient loading in waterways without imposing loss of income on farmers and with savings to the city through reduced need for ‘ditch’ cleaning. Riparian vegetation can also provide some air quality and carbon offset value. Furthermore to ensure the integrity of our drinking water aquifer, established riparian setbacks along urban waterways provide as filters for grey water runoff that is not captured by the storm drainage infrastructure.

Under DPA 3, which refers to riparian areas, we would like to see Guideline 3, which gives authority to the Federal Fisheries Act to justify the destruction or degradation of a local waterway, removed.  Given the recent changes to the Fisheries Act to protect only against “work, undertaking or activity that results or is likely to result in serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or Aboriginal fishery, or to fish that support such a fishery”, the Fisheries Act no longer adequately ensures protection of fish habitat.

Furthermore the BC Riparian Areas Regulation allows but does not require a local government to permit development to proceed if the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, or a regulation under the Fisheries Act, authorizes the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of habitat. It seems prudent to rely on Guideline 1 of DPA 3, which calls for the assessment report of a Qualified Environmental Professional, to determine whether a development should proceed and not defer to the Federal Legislation. We want to impress the importance of this adjustment to ensure that it is local decisions and by-laws that have authority in determining how development affects our local waterways, rather than decisions sent down from Ottawa.

Additionally under DPA 3, Qualified Environmental Professionals (QEP) are given considerable authority but it is unclear about their accountability. The Provincial Fish Protection Act allows local government to enact bylaws that result in protection comparable to or exceeding that established by the Riparian Areas Regulation. We would like to see the city use this provision to require that assessment reports under DPA 3 be done by a QEP employed by or under contract to the city - rather than to a developer - so that the QEP would be directly accountable to the city and thereby to Chilliwack residents.

Planning for the future is one of the most important efforts to be made. Again we commend the City of Chilliwack for undertaking this ambitious task and we hope that our suggestions will be received in good faith. If you have any questions or would like any more information please do not hesitate to be touch.

Sincerely,
Sheila Muxlow, Director
The WaterWealth Project

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What is the Value of Water?

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UPDATE, 9 April 2014: The deadline for feedback on water pricing under the Water Sustainability Act was 8 April 2014. We submitted our comments on the WSA blog. In addition, 81 people used the letter writing tool that we and Community-reVISION.org provided. It is always energizing to see people take the time to respond when opportunities arise to act. We were also pleased during the feedback period to receive a call from BC government staff thanking us for encouraging people to comment and asking for more!

The WSA leaves a lot of details to regulations, a process that typically does not involve transparent public participation. Look for us to continue to follow this legislation with more analysis and on-going calls for regulations to be developed in a public process. With your continued support, together we can ensure that the voice of everyday residents is heard above the noise of industry lobbyists and short-term political interests.  Water is too essential for decisions like these to be made behind closed doors!

Thanks for your interest and support. What follows is the original blog entry that was posted here during the WSA pricing comment period.

This is a big blog post!

But water law is a big subject! Wade through or skim across the water issues presented here and help us engage with the government in a good way during the water pricing feedback opportunity (till April 8th).  Comment directly to the Water Sustainability Act (WSA) blog or Send in a Comment Directly with our handy Letter Writing Tool.  You might also want to look over the comments of others on the WSA blog, such as those of the POLIS Water Sustainability Project (scroll down to find their posts of March 31 & April 1)

Bringing Water Law into the 21st Century

For the first time in more than 100 years, the BC Government has decided to update the Water Act legislation that relates to the waterways in the province we call home. For decades water users of community and corporate interests alike have been able to access water with no respect for First Nations rights & title, minimal restrictions on what the water was used for, or how the use was impacting the environment and the quality of water we leave for our children. The consequences of the lax regulation have caused the beautiful waters in BC to be threatened by multinational corporations accessing water sources without paying a cent, the degradation of watersheds and an overall lack of accountability to those of us who call the region home.

zeitgeist-moving-forward_600.jpgThanks to people like you, the BC Gov’t has recognized that they can not continue on with business as usual. Over the years thousands of BC residents have spoken up to demand that we see protections for the environment and restrictions on water users who consume and pollute water. From the Fraser Valley alone, more than 2000 people have joined in the call to ensure local residents have the right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to decisions that affect our home waters and demanded that the BC Govt enact stronger laws to protect the aquifers, rivers, lakes and streams that we rely on. Furthermore hundreds of us Valley folks participated in the feedback on the proposed Water Sustainability Act pinpointing the changes that we wanted to see to bring the legislation into the 21st century.

Although there is still much work to do to achieve the goal of world-class water legislation, the Government has made improvements to the 1905 Water Act and we commend them for responding to some of the public demands. For example the proposed Water Sustainability Act contains new groundwater legislation, protects water for ecosystem needs, provides for agricultural water reserves, introduces water sustainability plans to regulate water use in specific watersheds, and opens the door to regional watershed governance and local control.

Our Home Waters Need Us

It is essential that we continue to engage with the BC Gov’t and hold them accountable to the values that we have as local communities. First Nations rights & title must be respected to uphold the laws of our constitution and to ensure effective legislation for water protection. Reforms need to be made to the ‘First In Time, First in Right’ allocation system, and we need to see more accountability in the renewals of short-term water approvals for industrial use (as seen in the case with the fracking company Encana currently before the courts).

One way we are communicating these values is through feedback on the water pricing plan that the BC Government is seeking to implement. Here is a link to a handy letter writing tool to make the process easier. We know the Government responds to numbers so we need you to join us!

 

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Water Week 2014... It's a Wrap!

Canada Water Week 2014 ran March 17-23 in the Fraser Valley, and what a busy week it was!

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Just when preparations for Water Week events were really getting under way, the provincial government introduced the Water Sustainability Act in the Legislature.  At 181 pages of legalese, referencing myriad other Acts, and with the government looking for public feedback on water pricing; suddenly WaterWealth had a major and urgent task at hand to digest this legislation and respond to media and other inquiries about it.

No matter for Water Week dreams! We stayed committed to the goal of sharing in some fun and engaging events with many fellow community members throughout the week-long coast-to-coast-to-coast celebration of the fresh waters that sustain us all. And, if we may say so ourselves, success was achieved!

Take a Look....

We started the week on Monday with the 'Get To Know Your Home Waters' Walk. People young and old gathered at the banks of the Vedder River to hear from local experts on various topics relating to this popular area.  Dean Werk ><(((">Great River Fishing Adventures <")))>< shared his history of growing up on the river and spoke of the different runs of fish that make their way upstream year round and the important value they provide not only for the ecosystem but also for the local economy. Rachel Drennan of the Fraser Valley Watersheds Coalition talked about the important work her organization has done to restore fish spawning habitat and the value of maintaining clean channels of water for overall river health.  Larry Commodore, former Soowahlie Councillor and Chief and WaterWealth Community Advisor told us of the history of the area, including how the river way was diverted due to a landslide and than later affected by the draining of Sumas Lake in the 1920s. He also emphasized the importance of respecting First Nation's title & rights when it comes to protecting our home water ways.

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Winter Challenge 2014: The Deeper Story

winterchallenge.jpgVariations on an ancient Indigenous practice are going viral in the social media. Called-- and you've probably heard of it already-- "Winter Challenge 2014"; in which participants are asked to either fully immerse themselves in a body of water or, where there's snow, make snow angels while wearing swim attire or, lastly, where either of these aren't possible, getting drenched with a pail of water will do. Regardless of the method, the main idea is to get off the couch, out of the house and acquaint yourself with the winter cold.

As Carrie Lynn Victor from the Sto:lo Nation stated in a Global TV news article: "“There’s nothing but positivity in it. It really connects people to each other and to the water.”

melina_winter_challenge.pngThe idea originated with Kura Jack, 19, of Chemanius. After a recent dump of snow, she grew concerned that few of her friends and relatives were outside, enjoying the winter weather. Instead, they seemed more interested in staying inside, watching tv or playing video games. Wanting to set an example, she grabbed her video camera, donned cut-offs and top and did snow angels in the freshly fallen snow. She then nominated others to do the Challenge.

And that's how it spread; the Challenger challenging others. This includes young and old -toddlers and elders alike-- from such locales as Southern California to Alaska; though predominately in Canada, and in particular in BC, and predominately, though not exclusively, native.

MayorWinterChallenge_tnb_4.jpgPublic figures who took the Challenge include AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo, who nominated actor Adam Beach, who took a light hearted approach from poolside in sunny LA. Fellow actor Evan Adams took up the challenge in Hawaii, though he described it as "unseasonably cold". The Mayor of Vancouver Gregor Robertson waded into the waters of English Bay; The Union of BC Indian Chiefs Vice-President Bob Chamberlin dived into the icy reservoir of Collier Dam. The Wilderness Committee's National Campaign Director Joe Foy splashed into Clayoquot Sound. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and BC Premier Christy Clark have been nominated, but no word on whether they'll be doing the Winter Challenge.

 

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Oil Sands Bitumen & the Opportunity to Protect Our Home Waters

KinderMorgan's threat to water poses an opportunity to unite in defence of our drinking water.

Water.  We all need it and although it may seem like we have an abundance in the Valley, the Chilliwack aquifer is a unique, award-winning drinking water source for which we do not have an alternative.

So when Kinder Morgan is proposing to build a new pipeline to transport a heavy oil product - diluted bitumen - directly through this diluted_bitumen.jpgessential part of our community, there is no question that we have an opportunity - a responsibility - to protect what is ours.

Think Chlorine is bad...?

Diluted bitumen is a relatively new fossil fuel product, sought after since the decline of smooth flowing conventional oil sources. It's thick like tar and it's toxic.  When spilled it separates, some components evaporate into the air creating a toxic threat to anyone nearby, others sink in water to settle into bottom sediments and still others flow with water to contaminate shores far away from the spill site.  Complete cleanup is impossible.

tailingslake.jpgTo extract the product, acres of forest and underlying soil need to be removed, wetlands need to be dug up, and fresh water sacrificed to become deadly tailings lakes that in Canada's Oil Sands currently span 176 square kilometres.  Tailings lakes that were recently shown by Environment Canada to be leaking into groundwater and the Athabasca River.  The extent of contamination by naphthenic acids, mercury and other toxins and the impacts of that contamination on remote communities becomes ever more apparent as studies continue.

Transporting diluted bitumen is a dangerous business, as it requires significantly higher temperatures and pressures to move through pipelines. To date most bitumen refining has been done in North America (about 54% in Canada). However recent pipeline proposals seek to transport this heavy oil across thousands of kilometres to ports to be shipped by tanker for refining abroad.  One of these proposals is that of Texas-based Kinder Morgan, which would see a new export pipeline built directly through our home communities in the Fraser Valley.

In Chilliwack, Kinder Morgan has proposed to build a new pipeline adjacent to the Cheam Wetlands, across numerous farmers' fields, a local golf course, and within 500 meters of Vedder Jr, Watson Elementary and Mt. Slesse Middle School. 20131031_006_sm.jpg Directly related to our home waters, the route would run right over the unique drinking water aquifer that provides for 90% of community members in our home town.  From there it would go on to cut directly under the Peach Ponds, the Chilliwack-Vedder River and the new fish habitat being built in the Hopedale Slough.  Leaving Chilliwack, the pipeline would reach the Fraser River near Fort Langley and from there follow the river to where it would cross the Fraser near the Port Mann Bridge.

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