Environment a ‘junior holder’ of water rights

Fisheries, wildlife and people will all suffer harm as a result of a provincial water policy that favours economics over the environment, says an Edmonton-based advocacy group.

Fisheries, wildlife and people will all suffer harm as a result of a provincial water policy that favours economics over the environment, says an Edmonton-based advocacy group.

Public Interest Alberta released documents concerning the province’s water management plan, including details of the government’s position on access to water from the South Saskatchewan River Basin, which includes the Red Deer River.

The documents were made public as a result of a legal dispute, now resolved, between the Tsuu T’ina Nation, located southwest of Calgary and the Province of Alberta, said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of Public Interest Alberta.

Documents gleaned from the court case reveal a management plan that has potential to cause serious damage to fisheries and wildlife habitat, largely because it is based on an assumption that the Red Deer, Old Man and Bow Rivers will keep flowing at the same rate as they are now, with no regard for the possibility that supplies will diminish in the future, Moore-Kilgannon said on Wednesday.

The plan allows people who hold senior licences for access to river water to sell the unneeded portion of their allocation to other users, such as the deal struck to provide water for the Cross Iron Mills project at Balzac, he said.

Those types of transfers must be approved by Alberta Environment, which can retain 10 per cent of the transfer amount for the environment, said Moore-Kilgannon.

However, at times of low flows, all of the water available for allocation goes to the senior licence holders, leaving nothing for junior licence holders, which includes the environment itself, he said.

The bottom line for the Red Deer River is that water markets being developed under the province’s water management plan do not take into account the impact of reduced flows in the Red Deer river, said Red Deer-based Tony Blake, a member of the Red Deer River Naturalists.

Scientific evidence already exists to show that Alberta has been through an unusually wet period and that, regardless of climate change, water supplies including glacial melt will drop off in the future, said Blake, a board member with Nature Alberta, former president of the Red Deer River Naturalists and a former chairman of the Alberta chapter of Trout Unlimited.

The concerns relate to a point of view, said Blake.

“It’s what we think our landscape is good for. If you want this gold rush mentality, OK, you’re going to turn this landscape into cash as quickly as possible, and that seems to be where our provincial government’s been for, at least since the (Don) Getty administration, and it seems to be where the federal government has gone, too,” said Blake.

“It’s foolhardy to think that the water’s going to keep coming and to allocate water that way,” he said.

Cal Dallas, MLA for Red Deer South, said Alberta’s water management plan has continued to evolve since 2006. Further changes are being developed to reflect the needs of a growing population, including a public consultation to be announced after the ruling Progressive Conservative Party chooses a new leader to replace Premier Ed Stelmach.

The provincial government recognizes that some changes must be made to ensure that Alberta’s aquatic resources remain sustainable and viable, while recognizing the history behind which water licences have been allocated, said Dallas.

Among the key issues, every licence transfer requires a detailed review, including public input. If the transfer is not in the best interest of the public or if it can be shown that it is potentially detrimental to the environment, then it will not be approved, he said.

Dallas became involved in water management policy during his term as president of the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce in 2001/02. The Red Deer policy recommendations helped guide the Alberta Chamber of Commerce’s position on Alberta’s Water For Life Strategy.

Water For Life has come to be regarding as a leading strategy for water policy across Canada and across North America, said Dallas.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Advocate file photo).
RDC wins two national awards for environmental initiatives

Clean50 and LEED awards were received for innovative, green projects

St. Joseph High School, Notre Dame High School, Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, and St. Thomas Aquinas School are all dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks of 10 or more cases. (File photo by Advocate staff)
COVID-19 impacting Red Deer schools

Education minister says 99.6 per cent of students and staff remain in school in Alberta

DynaLife is hiring more staff to bring waiting times for blood tests down in Red Deer. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma, File)
DynaLIFE is hiring more staff in Red Deer to reduce wait times

Wait times for appointment will be further reduced

sign
Alberta Biobord Corp. recently hosted a virtual open house from Stettler

The company plans to develop a fuel pellet and medium density fibre board (MDF) plant near the community

WHL Logo
WHL announces no playoffs for 2020-21 season

The Western Hockey League will not have playoffs following the shortened 24-game… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

A Quebec Superior Court justice is set to issue a ruling Tuesday on the constitutionality of the province’s secularism law, known as Bill 21. People hold up signs during a demonstration against Bill 21 in Montreal, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Quebec court upholds most of province’s secularism law, exempts English school boards

MONTREAL — Quebec’s secularism law is largely legal, a Superior Court judge… Continue reading

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth speaks during a press conference at the legislature in Victoria, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019. The British Columbia government is providing a few more details about travel restrictions aimed at limiting movement around the province to slow the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Periodic roadblocks but no individual stops planned for B.C.’s COVID-19 travel rules

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government is looking at using periodic roadblocks… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is joined virtually by Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland as they talk online to a group of front-line pharmacists from across the country to discuss the ongoing vaccination efforts in the fight against COVID‑19, from the Prime Ministers office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Provinces balk at Liberals’ child-care budget pledge as funding negotiations loom

OTTAWA — Multiple provincial governments are questioning the Liberals’ promise of a… Continue reading

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist, an independent pharmacy in Toronto, Monday, April 19, 2021. Younger Canadians in several provinces are now able to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Trudeau, Freeland seeking AstraZeneca shots as they become age-eligible with others

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland… Continue reading

The Rogers Logo is photographed on a Toronto office on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
Rogers says wireless service fully restored but questions remain after massive outage

A massive countrywide wireless outage that left millions of Rogers Communications Inc.… Continue reading

sign
Alberta Biobord Corp. recently hosted a virtual open house from Stettler

The company plans to develop a fuel pellet and medium density fibre board (MDF) plant near the community

The controversial Super League is materializing after Madrid and 11 other clubs announced its creation on Sunday. (File photo by BLACK PRESS)
Super League a ‘longtime dream’ for Madrid president Pérez

League created because coronavirus pandemic left clubs in a dire financial situation

San Jose Sharks centre Patrick Marleau (12) skates during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, in San Jose, Calif., Monday, March 29, 2021. Marleau is skating in his 1,757th game. Only one other player in NHL history has hit that mark. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Tony Avelar
Patrick Marleau set to break Gordie Howe’s record for most NHL games played

Marleau was set to suit up for the 1,768th time Monday

Most Read