Local believes water diversion from Dogpound could hurt fishery by Derek Clouthier, December 27, 2012, Cochrane Eagle
A local writer and environmentalist has voiced concern over Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) issuing permits to energy companies to extract water from Dogpound Creek. Guy Woods highlighted in a blog last month that his trepidation lies with the fact that many of the permits issued by the ESRD fall during the exact time trout eggs are at a vulnerable state. “What was really surprising,” Wood wrote, “was that 37,000 cubic metres (of water) was allotted for the months of February and March, when the trout eggs from the previous spawning season were still incubating in the spawning habitats along the creek.” Woods goes on to say that during these months, water levels in the creek are at their lowest point of the year, and questions ESRD’s decision to issue diversion licences during that sensitive time. “It seems ironic to me that one branch of the provincial government, ESRD Fish and Wildlife, has taken extreme measures to protect the fishery of Dogpound Creek,” wrote Woods, “while the other branch, ESRD Water Resources, has issued water pumping permits that will have a negative impact on the habitat in the stream.”
Carrie Sancartier, a public affairs officer for ESRD, indicated that there might be a bit of a misunderstanding when it came to how the permits work. “It’s important to understand that this does not mean that the entire volume of water is used between these dates,” Sancartier replied, referring to the two months in question. “Each temporary diversion licence has a start date and an expiry date. The licence issued on March 26, for example, expired on June 15, so the authorized volume of water was used over the term of the licence, not all at one time.” Sancartier said the ESRD does have programs in place to protect Dogpound Creek’s aquatic ecosystem, such as water conservation objectives (WCO), which are applied for each diversion permit they issue. “Licensees diverting water from Dogpound Creek may divert the water authorized only when there is sufficient water flow in the source of water to meet or exceed the WCO,” Sancartier explained. Various energy companies operating in the area use water from a multitude of sources, including Dogpound Creek, Cochrane Lake and the town’s bulk water supply, for hydraulic fracturing fluid, used to extract oil and gas from shale rock beneath the surface.
Woods has also questioned who is responsible for compensating any damages caused by water diversion licences. “If there is any loss to fisheries habitat,” he asserted, “those responsible must compensate for the loss.” Woods said, however, that he is unaware of any regulations in place that would compensate for such a loss.
“When individuals, companies or municipalities fail to comply with our legislation,” Sancartier replied, “ESRD has several options, depending on the offence to ensure compliance, including warning letters, tickets and administrative penalties, enforcement, environmental protection, water management orders and prosecution.”
Ultimately, Woods believes the use of Dogpound’s water for frack fluid is unsettling. “It’s a hell of a use for clean water that has been stolen from a healthy trout stream,” he wrote. [Emphasis added]