Be specific on water act changes, task force asks

Maple Ridge groups want details on exactly what gov't is planning

Maple Ridge’s two river groups and the District of Maple Ridge want details and specifics before they put in their two cents over the new water act.

A task force composed of the Alouette River Management Society and the Kanaka Education and Environmental Partnership Society, as well as the district, will make that point in a letter this week. The letter has to get to the Ministry of Environment today to be considered.

“We need more information,” said Rod Stott, with the district’s environmental planning department.

The government has set Nov. 15 as the deadline for public comment on its proposed new Water Sustainability Act, which will include regulations governing the use of ground water.

After the public consultation is complete, the draft legislation and recommendations will be submitted to government for consideration.

But Stott, along with Maple Ridge Coun. Cheryl Ashlie, both on the task force, say there’s not enough clarity about what the government plans to do.

“We’ve got questions and concerns about everything,” Stott said.

Questions still remain about companies’ ability to take water and sell it in the marketplace.

Stott said there are some positives of the draft law, such as more equitable distribution of water rights, better management in times of scarcity, more resources for creeks and fish, and more resources for ground water management.

The letter will be sent from Maple Ridge council, after input from the various task force members.

“Because of the lack of detail and the lack of definitions and clarity, we just really feel strongly that another step be there before the legislation goes to the house,” Ashlie said.

Without that, the proposed act could lose credibility.

Ashlie said the group is asking the government to create a formal paper outlining its objectives.

She said that the river groups need to see more detail before they can decide if they’d be affected.

One of the provisions of the bill could be the requirement for water users to use real-time monitoring of consumption, so the public can track it.

However, a task force member pointed out that baseline information and more is needed to make such monitoring worthwhile. ARMS has been looking for that provision, she added.

“I think they [water users] have to be kept honest, where the practices are actually benefiting everybody.”

Ashlie said she’s been happy with the consultation process so far.

“We’re going to be strong in our language that we’re concerned of this good body of work losing credibility, if you do not give people a chance to see it,” Ashlie said.

“We’re going to say it in a nice way, but we want it said, this is something we feel strongly about. There needs to be another input session.”

The environment ministry has been seeking input since 2009.

The proposed legislation includes, for the first time in B.C.’s history, regulations for using ground water. B.C. currently is the only province that has no regulations for subsurface water.

The proposal is to regulate in the same manner as surface water, requiring users to get a licence and pay annual fees.

Most domestic water wells would be exempt.

The government’s online overview of the proposed legislation is a full colour document that gives mostly general statements.

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