You are hereBottled water proposal doesn't need environmental assessment, First Nations behind scheme say

Bottled water proposal doesn't need environmental assessment, First Nations behind scheme say


Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist, February 8, 20100

A proposal to pull water from remote streams along B.C. Central Coast inlets doesn't need a full environmental assessment because the project will use "the most environmentally conscious method ever used in B.C.," says a spokesmen for the two First Nations behind a recent string of water licence applications.

The Kwiakah First Nation, most of whose 19 members live in Campbell River, and the Da'naxda'xw/Awaetlala First Nation of Alert Bay, with about 200 members, have applied to the province for 34 licences to bottle water from streams around Jervis, Toba, Bute and Knight inlets.

Some are in partnership with numbered companies, which were involved in initial applications. The proponents were persuaded to let First Nations take the lead, said Frank Voelker, Kwiakah band manager and economic development officer, who hopes the bottling plan will generate a secure income for members.

But the flood of applications has alarmed environmental groups, who are asking the province for an environmental assessment on the overall impact of the proposals instead of each application being considered individually.

Opponents do not appear to understand the light footprint of the extraction, Voelker said. One skiff will work in an area where there are several licences and, with a flexible hose, will take water from each stream and transport it to a barge.

It is hoped that once the water licences are granted, two plants — one on Vancouver Island and one in Vancouver — will bottle the water, Voelker said.

"Then we will leave and no one would know we had been there," said Voelker. "There won't be an armada of barges or skiffs leaving Campbell River harbour every day."

Multiple licences are needed because the skiff needs the flexibility to move around different streams or waterfalls based on conditions, Voelker said.

Water will probably be taken from only a handful of streams each day, he said. Most applications are for 112,500 litres per day from each stream.

Some licence applications have already been abandoned because preliminary environmental assessments showed extraction could affect fish stocks or water flow, said Sarah Bowie of Sigma Engineering Ltd., the company working with the bands.

Hydrology tests have been carried out on each of the streams, Bowie said. "We have dropped the ones where there is any potential significant impact," she said.

Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson said all applications are evaluated on an individual basis, but the cumulative impact is considered for each stream.

"It's important to recognize there's a very careful process here . . . Decisions will be made after careful review of each application," Thomson said.

The amount of water is consistent with previous applications for water bottling, he said.

Environment Minister Murray Coell has asked the Environmental Assessment Office to review the information "and advise on whether or not a review of this nature is required or recommended," said ministry spokesman Colin Grewar.

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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