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B.C. tour operator fears water applications could lead to bulk exports


Matthew Burrows, Georgia Straight, February 8, 2011

A tour operator based in B.C.’s Discovery Islands is concerned that a recent rush on local streams for water-bottling operations is the beginning of a slide toward bulk water exports.

“Fish farms started as two or three pens growing local fish, and then they morphed into foreign-owned industrial operations,” Lannie Keller, a member of the group Friends of Bute Inlet, told the Straight from her home on Read Island, where she runs Coast Mountain Expeditions with her husband, Ralph. “Small hydro did start at the community level, with environmentally sensitive systems. Now we have Plutonic and General Electric in the backyard at Toba Inlet. What’s next? This is 1.6 billion litres a year. It’s local to start with, but who knows how those licences are going to trade up.”

Friends of Bute Inlet is one of five groups that put out a joint news release today (February 8), along with Sierra Club Quadra Island, Sierra Club Malaspina, the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association and the Campbell River chapter of the Council of Canadians.

The groups are concerned about a host of applications to extract water for bottling in Keller’s area of the province, south of the Broughton Archipelago.

The applications, now under consideration by the Ministry of Natural Resource Operations, envisage taking up to 112,000 litres a day from each of the streams, according to the release. The water would then be transported to Vancouver for bottling, she claimed.

“We are looking for a formal provincial environmental assessment, which would allow the 40 streams to be looked at as part of the bigger process,” Keller said. “The way the current review process is looking at it is as individual applications, and they are not being reviewed by anything except agency referrals, and it’s kind of hiding a much bigger picture that’s out there.”

The applications are in the names of numbered companies and two First Nations groups, Keller said.

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