Read this story by Mark Hume in the Globe and Mail on Fort Nelson First Nation’s concerns about long-term water withdrawal licence applications for shale gas development in their territory in northeast BC. (Nov. 13, 2012)
Kanute Loe, an elder with a small native band in northeast British Columbia, measures the impact of the gas industry on the environment by looking at the water levels dropping in the streams and rivers he fishes.
“I spend a lot of my time in the bush. I travel the rivers … there’s creeks that there’s no water coming out of,” he said Tuesday.
“All of a sudden we’re having trouble catching fish … Our rivers are getting harder to navigate … it’s almost like somebody drilled a hole in the bottom of the bathtub,” Mr. Loe said in Vancouver at a news conference to express aboriginal concerns about increasing water extraction by industry.
Sharleen Wildeman, chief of the Fort Nelson First Nation, said her band has grown alarmed at the growing needs of the gas industry, which draws water from streams, lakes and rivers. The water is mixed with sand and chemicals in a slurry that is injected deep under ground. The process, known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking, breaks up shale structures and releases gas deposits.
Ms. Wildeman, whose 800-member band is located near the booming Horn River gas fields, said industry in that area has 20 long-term water licence applications before the B.C. government. If those licences are approved, she said, it would authorize industry to withdraw “tens of billions of litres of water annually” for up to 40 years, for use in fracking operations.
“We are extremely concerned about a massive giveaway of water from our rivers and lakes, without any credible process identifying what the long-term impacts will be,” she said.
Ms. Wildeman is upset with a government consultation process “that has stalled,” and she said the band is demanding five conditions be met before any new water licences are approved.
She said the band wants baseline environmental studies done before licences are issued; multi-year development plans filed in advance to identify proposed water sources, gas-well sites, roads and camps; environmental plans that cap water withdrawals at ecologically acceptable levels; protection of culturally significant land and water resources, and an agreement that environmental impact monitoring and enforcement will be done by an independent body.
“Failure to embrace these fundamental reforms will lead to increasing yet avoidable conflict,” Ms. Wildeman said.