Salmon Leaks Part 13: Water, Cumulative Impacts and DFO Final Summary Panel

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CreekNearing the end of regularly scheduled hearings, the Cohen Commission wrapped up with sessions on Hydro and Cumulative Effects. In addition, a senior DFO management panel was brought back for a final wrap-up. Although these were the last hearings of the regular schedule, three unexpected hearing days were added in December on the emerging infectious Salmon Anaemia virus (ISAv) issue.

See transcripts below:

 

On Sept 15, Dr. Craig Orr from Watershed Watch was questioned (starts on page 58, line 5) about the existence of groundwater legislation in BC and whether it was adequate. Dr. Orr responded with several comments:

“…there’s no regulation to licence groundwater extractions, and that is being considered in the Water Act modernization, although I just do not know where it is at this point.”

“There has to be blanket coverage, and it can’t just include problem areas and for extremely large groundwater extractions.”

“Watershed Watch and others, have been advocating for consistent groundwater protection, licensing of all groundwater wells that are drilled in British Columbia.”

“The laws in British Columbia are antiquated with regards to protecting flow needs for fish”

On Sept 16, counsel for Watershed Watch turned to independent power projects (IPPs) and questioned the panel on the Environmental Assessment (EA) process associated with their approval and the issue of splitting up larger projects into smaller components to potentially avoid an EA. Counsel referred to an internal DFO memo (page 67 line 4) that highlights a number of concerns associated with government habitat protection methods including:

“Project splitting is a current issue resulting from a poorly coordinated referral system.”

Jason Hwang, BC Interior Area Manager, DFO, elaborated on this point from his memo,

“So we’ll get a piece for a marina, and then we’ll get a separate referral for, say, a boat launch, and then we may or may not get a separate referral for upland development. But it tends to all be part of the same development activity. It would be more effectively managed and regulated if we were able to review it and consider it as a one singular project instead of three individual pieces of a project.”

The discussion moved to the idea that an EA could be avoided if an IPP is split-up. Glen Davidson, Director of Water Management, Ministry of Forests said:

“Yeah, the trigger for the formal environmental assessment process is 50 megawatts. So under that, they’re not required to have certificate.”

Counsel continued:

“And would it be possible to split a project into smaller projects to avoid the requirement to conduct an environmental assessment?”

Glen Davidson:

“I would say not generally I’m seeing projects being split to do that. It’s kind of obvious if that’s the case.”

Counsel then brought up a potential IPP example in which this situation may have occurred:

“there’s an example of a project in the Fraser River watershed, and it’s on the Holmes River, and I’m just wondering if you’re aware of an independent power project where it appears that there’s a total of ten licences that have been granted for a total of 76 megawatts of power production, so it’s ten licences on a row of streams that go into the Holmes River.”

On Sept 19 David Marmorek, from ESSA Technologies Ltd. spoke about his report on cumulative impacts produced for the Cohen Commission.

On Sept 23, Justice Cohen brought up the Wild Salmon Policy and the issue of its implementation (page 81, line 12):

“Now that we’re in 2011, we have about six years under our belt. First of all, how realistic is that statement, that implementation must be accomplished within DFO’s existing resource capability? I’m reading that to mean human and financial resource, but I could be misinterpreting that statement. And secondly, how realistic is it that DFO will find a solution to sharing responsibility with First Nations, governments, volunteers, stakeholders, and other governments? In other words, after six years of working with the Wild Salmon Policy, if I could just get some reality check on these statements, it would be helpful.”

On Sept 27, counsel entered an email (page 3, line 7) into evidence that indicated the Minster of Fisheries had a private meeting with the largest salmon farming company in BC—Marine Harvest Canada—about their concerns with the Cohen Commission. Environmental groups in the Conservation Coalition—a participant group of the inquiry—did not have an analogous meeting opportunity with the Minister.

An email string that included communications from Al Castledine—Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, BC—detailed a precautionary movement of Marine Harvest Canada’s fish from one farm to another which was funded by the province. The email suggests the news of the fish movement was to be made public, but the source of the funding to the company was not.

In questioning Deputy Minister Dansereau about the adequacy of DFO, counsel referred to questions previously posed to Dr. Brian Riddell, former DFO scientist. Please see line 47, page 15 for an interesting exchange which included previous testimony from Dr. Riddell:

“Well, I don’t think there’s any question that I disagree. I am not surprised at all at her [Ms. Danereau] reply because, of course, these people are under significant pressure for national priorities and I’m sure there’s a very substantial debate in Ottawa where the money goes to the various departments. But I don’t think there’s any question that you would get a very common response on the west coast with respect to salmon stock assessment, I have said publicly here, I believe, that it’s definitely at a marginal responsible level that sort of what we would define as a core stock assessment responsibility is barely being met now.”

For more information see:

 

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