Archive for the 'Canada' Category

Jan 14 2013

International: Agreement reached on cross-border lake

Published by under Canada,Washington

U.S. and Canadian authorities have reached an agreement with the state of Washington to renew and update joint operations of Osoyoos Lake, which straddles the two countries at Oroville, Wash. The State Department of Ecology owns and operates Zosel Dam, which controls lake levels and trans-border flows downstream from the outlet of Osoyoos Lake on the Okanogan River.

In signing the agreement, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire accepted the conditions and recommendations negotiated over the past several years between the International Joint Commission (IJC), Canada and United States. The agreement updates and renews orders established in 1982 to jointly manage lake levels for irrigation, flood control, drought and recreation. The agreement was due to expire Feb. 22, 2013.

New joint operations reflect seven years of study and public input and recommendations by the International Osoyoos Lake Board of Control, established by the IJC in 1946 to ensure compliance and supervise cross-border operations of lake levels during both wet and dry years.

Gregoire said the work to update cross-border lake operations enables the state to continue to partner with British Columbia to operate and maintain the lake for the mutual benefit of homeowners, agriculture, tourism, fisheries and all concerned.

During normal years the lake elevation is held between a maximum elevation of 911.5 feet and a minimum elevation of 909.0 feet. However, under the new orders, during a drought year water may be stored to lake elevation as high as 912.5 feet, a reduction of one-half foot from the 1987 Order. Zosel Dam effectively controls the elevation of Osoyoos Lake except during periods of high snowmelt runoff when natural conditions often force the lake above elevation 913.0 feet.

The six-member International Osoyoos Lake Board of Control holds an annual meeting and reports to the International Joint Commission each fall. Monthly reports of daily lake levels and flows are kept by the board to document compliance with agreement orders.

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Jun 29 2012

U.S., Canada reconsider Columbia River treaty

Published by under Canada,Columbia River

The Center for Environmental Law & Policy encouraged people who live in the Columbia River Basin to learn more about the process underway to reexamine the Columbia River Treaty between the US and Canada.

The US and Canada signed the Treaty in 1964 to jointly manage the Columbia River. Under the Treaty, the US paid for 3 “treaty dams” in Canada and built the Libby Dam in Montana for two purposes: to control flooding in the US, and to significantly increase power generation at the 11 U.S. dams downstream. Under the current treaty, in 2024, the burden for downstream flood control shifts from Canada to the US.

The US and Canada are considering whether to terminate the Treaty, continue it with the automatic shift in the responsibility for flood control, or to renegotiate it. The earliest either country can terminate the Treaty is 2024, and only with at least 10 years notice to the other.

For 50 years the Treaty has governed management of the Columbia River for the two purposes of flood control and power generation. During the deliberations and ratification of the CRT, no consideration was given to impacts on fisheries, Tribes and First Nations, or cultural sites. “Times have changed,” said Suzanne Skinner, Director of the Center for Environmental Law and Policy, “ the US and Canada need to honor their obligations to the Tribes. Thanks to the Tribes, both the US and Canada now agree that restoring the ecological function of the Columbia has to be an equal concern with flood control and power generation. What we have to do now is to make our governments live up to this commitment to restore the waters and wildlife of the once-magnificent Columbia.”

Public meetings are underway. By September 2013, both US and Canada intend to complete recommendations for changing the Treaty that controls international management of the Columbia River.

“The Columbia River will not be managed in the future as it is now,” said John Osborn, Spokane physician and conservationist. “Changes in flood control outlined in the Treaty combined with climate change and a deteriorating river are drivers for change. Residents of the Columbia River Basin need to be informed and involved. Transparency is needed here.”

The US is holding four informational meetings in late June and July

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Mar 27 2012

Canada: Applying for water online

Published by under Canada

The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority said in March it has set up to allow people to file for water rights electronically, on line.

From its website:

The Saskatchewan Watershed Authority is pleased to introduce the new Online Products Portal. The Portal currently allows you to apply and pay online for Temporary Water Rights Licences. New services will be added to the Portal in the near future.

A Temporary Water Rights Licence grants permission to use a specific volume of water for short-term use.

We know our new Online Products Portal will enhance our service to you and we encourage you to use this application process, helping you reduce costs for your business and helping us give you faster decisions on water availability.

When you apply for a Temporary Water Rights Licence, we can provide you an automatic assessment that considers the water demand and the water source. This evaluation will either issue you an approval immediately or, if the proposed water source requires an assessment, refer your application to the appropriate regional office for further review.

This process will also assist the Watershed Authority by improving its information database on water use.

This initiative is part of the Watershed Authority’s Public Service Renewal process, improving our service to clients while simplifying processes and lowering costs for you.

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Apr 29 2011

Canada: A push for water as a right

Published by under Canada

Water – a declaration of the human right to water – is becoming one of the hot button topics in the upcoming national elections in Canada.

A statement from a collection of human rights groups included this:

The Assembly of First Nations, Amnesty International Canada and the Council of Canadians are calling on all political parties to recognize explicitly the human right to water and sanitation and to commit to ensuring that Canada meets its obligations in upholding these rights for people in Canada.

On July 28, 2010, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution recognizing the right to clean and safe drinking water and sanitation. Canada and a small number of other countries abstained from the vote while the resolution was strongly supported by African, Asian and Latin American countries. On September 30, 2010, the UN Human Rights Council affirmed that the right to water and sanitation is already established in international law under legally-binding UN human rights covenants.

Maude Barlow, Council of Canadians chairperson and former Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the UN General Assembly, says, “The United Nations has already recognized water and sanitation as a human right, which means that every government must now come up with a plan of action based on the ‘obligation to respect, protect and fulfill’ these rights. I call on the next federal government to explicitly recognize these rights and for all political parties to outline what they will do to ensure that Canada meets its obligations.”

AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo stated, “We have made health and safety one of our priorities in this federal election with access to safe and potable water as a basic human right. Unfortunately, we still have over a hundred communities operating under boil-water advisories. First Nations have inherent rights to water in their traditional territories and these rights were never given up. First Nation leaders have called for Canada to respect the Aboriginal and Treaty right to clean drinking water and want to work in partnership with the next government on this priority, consistent with the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

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Feb 12 2011

BC: Mining rights sale complete

Los Andes Copper Ltd. said in February that it has made the final payment under the agreement to purchase consumptive water rights for 250 litres per second. These water rights are now held by the company free and clear of any encumbrance.

The company has made the final option payment in respect of certain mineral claims in addition to the core San Jose claims, providing the company with 100% ownership of all mineral claims surrounding the core of the Vizcachitas project. The consolidation of the San Jose claims, announced by press release on December 21, results in the entire resource comprising the Vizcachitas property being under unified ownership for the first time in decades, and allows the company to take the steps necessary to advance the project to development.

Management is currently finalizing the details of a work program that will include additional drilling in the core San Jose claims, completion of a scoping study and work required for the start of the pre-feasibility stage in respect of Vizcachitas.

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Dec 11 2010

CA: Oil region may control with water rights

A new report released on December 9 in Edmonton, Alberta, said that contaminants and low water levels in the Athabasca River system are impacting treaty rights.

The peer reviewed study was conducted with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Mikisew Cree First Nation. It examined traditional land and water use, and the impact of contaminants and low water levels in the lower Athabasca River system.

Chief Roxanne Marcel of the Mikisew Cree First Nation said “This study confirms what our elders and Chiefs have been telling government for years – that our treaty rights are being impacted by the quality and quantity of the water. When water levels are down, we can no longer access our Traditional Lands by boat, which limits our fishing, trapping and hunting. Our members have been stranded. We no longer drink the water. We see our rights along with our River deteriorating before

Treaty 8 was signed on July 13, 1899, protecting hunting, fishing and trapping rights. These rights are guaranteed by Canada’s Constitution, and affirmed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said “This study is the kind of research we have repeatedly asked the government to do, and is the type of information needed to properly assess the impacts of development on Treaty Rights. It provides an opportunity for meaningful dialogue between our First Nations and the Governments of Alberta and Canada. If the Governments are to fulfill their Treaty obligations with us, the information and recommendations in this study must be considered in plans for water withdrawals from the Athabasca River.”

Dr. David Schindler, water scientist and a peer reviewer of the study said that “This is an important report. The way in which the treaty was obtained and is now being ignored by our political leaders must rank as one of the darkest chapters in Canadian History.”

In publishing this report, the Mikisew Cree First Nation and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation are also issuing an invitation to the Premier and federal and provincial Ministers to deal seriously with water quality and quantity issues downstream of the tar sands, something that even the federal Auditors General says they aren’t doing. The Chiefs said “We are inviting them to visit Fort Chipewyan early in 2011, to hear directly from our communities, to work with us to deal with the quality and quantity of water in the Athabasca River, and to address impacts to Treaty 8.”

The report maps how Treaty rights have been adversely affected by low flow, and by fear of contaminants in the river. It provides recommendations, and suggests rights-based thresholds to guide tar sands-related water withdrawals. Dr. Craig Candler, principal author and president of Firelight Research Group, says “This study is a great example of First Nations working together to commission quality community-based research. The results and the recommendations are clear. The communities have been saying these things for years. This report just brings what the community already knows together with credible social science.”

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Aug 31 2010

Canada: Arguing for blaming NAFTA on water

A Canadian group is arguing that the North American Free Trade Agreement is the central problem behind a dispute over water and timber rights that could cost Canadian governments and businesses considerable money in the wake of a major lawsuit.

The group Council of Canadians offered this analysis on August 27:

The provinces and territories should not be held financially responsible for costly NAFTA lawsuits or expensive out-of-court settlements, as suggested by Prime Minister Harper yesterday, says the Council of Canadians.

The social justice advocacy group is also calling on the federal government to make the terms of the settlement with AbitibiBowater public because the settlement may have included payment for water and timber rights the company does not own.
“Canadians are rightfully angry that the Harper government has wasted $130-million of their money on a NAFTA settlement with AbitibiBowater. But to blame Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams, as the prime minister is trying to do, is a deflection from the real problem of letting companies sue the federal government,” says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians.

The $130-million NAFTA settlement with AbitibiBowater is the largest since the trade agreement came into force in 1994. By law, the federal government is bound to defend NAFTA challenges to provincial or territorial policy, and to cover the associated costs. Using the public anger at the size of the payout, Prime Minister Harper said yesterday he will be establishing a legal mechanism to force the provinces and territories to pay for future trade-related settlements.
“Danny Williams was absolutely right and within his provincial powers to take back the water, timber and land of a company that was giving up on Newfoundland,” says Barlow. “There’s no proof that giving companies the power to sue countries in trade deals actually attracts foreign investment. The high costs could be avoided by pulling the Chapter 11 investor-dispute process out of NAFTA.”

The Council of Canadians is concerned that the settlement included payment for water rights the company doesn’t have. If the terms of the deal state that the $130-million will broadly satisfy the value of AbitibiBowater’s NAFTA claim, which included a claim to water and timber rights lent to the company by the Newfoundland government nearly 100 years ago, the Harper government has created a de facto private property right to water where none exists in Canadian law.
“There are vast constitutional consequences in the AbitibiBowater settlement if in fact Harper is compensating a private company for water rights as if that company owned the land and water to begin with because it doesn’t,” says Steven Shrybman, trade lawyer and Council of Canadians board member.

The settlement must be court-approved and will be discussed at a hearing Sept. 14 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, where the company is incorporated. The Council of Canadians is calling for a public airing of the terms of the AbitibiBowater settlement, which would then inform possible constitutional issues.

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Aug 26 2010

Dorgan calls for talks with Canada

Published by under Canada,North dakota

Senator Byron Dorgan, D-ND, the chair of the U.S. Senate panel that funds water projects in the United States, is calling for four party international talks to resolve long standing disputes between the U.S. and Canada over water projects and flooding issues. Dorgan proposed that the talks begin in late September and be held in Washington, D.C.

In a letter to the U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson and Canadian Ambassador to the United States Gary Doer, Dorgan said the talks should include representatives of the United States and Canada, as well as officials from the state of North Dakota and the province of Manitoba. Issues involving the threat of an uncontrolled water spill from Devils Lake; the Northwest Area Water Supply (NAWS) rural water project in northwestern North Dakota; and the dispute over a dike Canada erected between the U.S. and Canada near Pembina, North Dakota should be the focus of the talks, he said.

Dorgan heads the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee. He said there is “too much at stake in both countries for the disputes to continue or to delay actions that can be protective and helpful to the interests of both countries.”

Dorgan said he has had ongoing discussions with both the U.S. Ambassador to Canada and with the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. He has also spoken with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper about some of the water disputes with Canada.

“The increasing potential that rising flood waters in Devils Lake will flood and spill uncontrolled into the Sheyenne River should be of real concern to both countries, because an uncontrolled spill will cause serious problems in both eastern North Dakota and Canada,” Dorgan said.

“The news that the NAWS rural water project in northwestern North Dakota could now be delayed 10 years or more as a result of court challenges from Canada is a serious problem that affects tens of thousands of North Dakotans,” Dorgan said.

“It is imperative that both countries make a serious effort soon to find solutions to these and other long-standing water issues, such as opening the Canadian border dike near Pembina, which causes flooding on the North Dakota side, to natural drainage.”

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Aug 21 2010

CA: BC projects extreme drought

Due to dry weather in July and record-low river levels in the northern half of British Columbia, Environment Minister Barry Penner said on August 20 that the Peace region has been reclassified to Drought Level 4 (extremely dry conditions).

A high-pressure ridge over the province brought dry, above-average, and in some cases record-setting temperatures for most areas of British Columbia during the past week. River levels in the North continue to fall and in many cases are at or near historic lows. Given the continuation of dry conditions and record-low river levels in the North, Penner is asking British Columbians to conserve water to protect water sources and help manage water demands.

In northern B.C., river levels are well below normal. In the Peace region, most tributaries are near or at record minimum low flows for this time of year. The Moberly, Pine, Kiskatinaw, Halfway, Finlay, Ospika, Omineca, Mesilinka and Osilinka, and Nation rivers are extremely dry (near or below previously recorded low for the date). In the far Northeast, the Liard River has now also fallen to historic low flows. On the North Coast, the Skeena and Stikine rivers are below a 20-year return period low flow.

Flows along the mainstem of the Fraser River downstream of the confluence of the McGregor River are at 10-year return period low flows. In the Central Interior, the Cariboo region is also dry with the Quesnel and Horsefly rivers between 10- to 20-year return period low flows. In contrast, streams in the Chilcotin region are generally between median and five-year return period low flows.

In the Thompson River area, water levels on most streams are between median and five-year low flows, although the upper Salmon River at Falkland is now below normal. Similar conditions are present in the Similkameen and Okanagan region, with most streams between median and five-year return period low flows. Exceptions are Vaseux, Coldstream, and Mission creeks which are approaching 10-year return period low flows.

In the Kootenay and Columbia areas, streamflow conditions are generally slightly below normal for this time of year.

On Vancouver Island, most river levels on the north island are above average, and streams on the south island are normal for this time of year. On the South Coast mainland, river levels are at or above average for this time of year.

Given the continuation of dry conditions and record-low river levels in the north, the Peace region is now classified at Drought Level 4 (extremely dry conditions). The Skeena and Nass region will be maintained at Drought Level 3 (very dry conditions). These conditions are expected to persist throughout the summer unless above normal rainfall occurs.

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Jun 12 2010

Canada: Water calls in BC mountains

The British Columbia Ministry of Environment is using authority under the Water Act to make changes to the regulated amounts of diversion and use of water for the Chimney Lakes community in the Cariboo.

The Cariboo region is facing critical water shortages. Due to low winter snowpacks and already emerging drought conditions, water flows in this area are extremely low and there is not enough water for all water licensees. To protect water supplies in the Chimney Creek watershed (including Chimney Lake, Felker Lake and Brunson Lake), the B.C. government is invoking priority rights.

Water rights for licences issued after 1937 are temporarily suspended for the remainder of the irrigation season (Sept. 30, 2010) or until the Ministry of Environment rescinds the order, which the ministry will do if weather conditions change sufficiently. This order applies to domestic water use and other water purposes such as irrigation. It does not apply to groundwater withdrawals from wells.

Under the Water Act, water licences are regulated by the licence priority date, and older licences have priority over newer licences. Priority date of a licence usually reflects the date the application for water rights was received.

Before initiating regulatory action, the ministry requested water licensees in the area to undertake voluntary water conservation measures and informed them that regulatory action may be required in the near future.

Drought conditions can impact communities in many different ways, including reduced water availability for household and business use, potential impacts to fish and other aquatic life and potential impacts to agricultural crops.

For more information on drought, and what the B.C. government is doing to prepare for and respond to drought, go to:

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