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Working together for our watersheds

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  • 1. Athabasca, January 29, 2010 Prepared for Athabasca Watershed Council (AWC) and Tawatinaw Watershed Stewards (TWS) By Janice Pitman
  • 2. … conservation over the coming decades will require unprecedented cooperation and partnership among governments, private sector and non-government organizations, and individual citizens. Consequently, the greatest challenge we and other members of the conservation community face is the need to form new and interdependent relationships, sharing integrated capacities, building on common strengths, identifying and addressing weaknesses, and focusing our responses on shared goals and objectives. - US Fish and Wildlife Service, Rising to the Challenge, Strategic Plan for Responding to Accelerating Climate Change , September 2010
  • 3.
    • Timeline of Bridge Replacement Project
    • 2001 Project in works
    • 2001 Public meeting, Town council supports Alberta Transportations original proposal, DFO determines channel realignment is feasible in principal subject to:
      • Adequate mitigation and compensation for loss of habitat
      • Principal of no net loss of fish habitat
    • 2004 Alberta Transportation meets with Town Council
    • 2005 Stantec contracted to do preliminary engineering
    • 2008 Stantec submits Water Act licence application to Alberta Environment
    • 2008 DFO receives project proposal, project requires Fisheries Act authorization for Harmful Alteration Disruption or Destruction (HADD) of fish habitat
  • 4.
    • 2009 Public notice in the Athabasca Advocate
    • 2009 DFO meets with proponent and provincial agencies to discuss the project.
    • Concerns of DFO include
      • Design of the proposed channel
      • Increase in water velocity
      • Fish passage issues
      • Potential effectiveness of the proposed mitigation
    • DFO receives additional information from the proponent that addresses some of the issues.
    • 2010 Tawatinaw Watershed Stewards provide information to local government and citizens on impacts of the realignment
    • 2010 Citizen letter writing campaign concerning proposal
  • 5.
    • February 2, 2010 with regard to the Water Act, Alberta Transportation was awaiting approval on:
      • Final design drawings and habitat detail
      • Engineering comments on hydrological implications
      • Alberta Sustainable Resource Development approval
      • DFO acceptance of fish habitat mitigation
    • February 2010, Alberta Transportation and Athabasca Town Council held an in-camera meeting. The contents of this meeting are unavailable to the public.
    • February 22, 2010 Minister of Transportation response to Tawatinaw Watershed’s Stewards letter of inquiry leaves unanswered questions and additional concerns, specifically:
      • 50-100 year flood levels were not currently available, the most recent study was done in March of 1993 by Environment Canada
      • The loss of wildlife corridor to be compensated by a sidewalk on a four metre bench under the bridge that wildlife will share with people
  • 6.
    • March 3, 2010 Public information session in Athabasca
      • Was to be attended by Alberta Transportation, Stantec Engineering staff and Golder Associates to respond to public inquiries: Alberta Transportation did not attend
      • Stantec engineer explains that bridge can be replaced where it is, but requires more expensive construction
      • Could not answer questions regarding cost of alternatives or realignment as Alberta transportation not in attendance
    • Summer, 2010 Alberta Transportation required by DFO and Environment Canada to broaden scope of submission to include environmental, social, and heritage impacts. Citizens request and expect public involvement at this point, which is not forthcoming.
    • Fall, 2010 Major repairs to bridge
    • Fall, 2010 DFO requires new design of Tawatinaw realignment from Alberta Transportation with meanders, as previous design does not fulfil requirement, new design expected spring 2011
    • Winter, 2011 Condition of bridge is of concern to people
  • 7.
    • Questions Still on People’s Minds
    • People are concerned about the lack of democratic process and the closed door policy of Alberta Transportation concerning this proposed development.
      • Why is this project presented as public safety versus the environment?
      • Has the required public consultation taken place? If so, when and where?
      • Why has the Athabasca Town Council not fully included citizens in this process?
      • Why has the process taken 10 years and we still do not have a new bridge?
      • Why are impacted citizens being shut out of the process?
      • Can old studies off the shelf fulfill DFO’s requirements to include study of environmental, social, and heritage impacts?
  • 8.
    • How can a decision made by town council in 2001 to accept a plan that has changed many times since then still be binding,?
    • How will the proposed development improve traffic flow?
    • What about the impact of continued heavy truck traffic in the downtown area on our safety, streets and buildings?
    • If the increase in traffic is largely due to an increase in economic development, why can our government not afford to build safe and adequate infrastructure that does not harm the environment?
    • How can we be assured that the new campground location on the outside of the curve of the Athabasca River combined with required cutting of dense, old growth forest will not further destabilize the banks of the Athabasca River?
    • The Tawatinaw Watershed is a large natural heritage system linking wetlands, lakes, and forests and a critical river corridor for wildlife connecting the Tawatinaw Watershed with the Athabasca River Corridor in the Town of Athabasca. How can a multiuse sidewalk for animals and humans maintain this link?
    • How can we influence Alberta Transportation to consult impacted citizens directly about this proposed project?
  • 9.
    • The Process of Decision Making in Alberta Often Affects Local Citizens and Environments Adversely
    • What Needs to be Changed?
    • Citizens would like:
      • To be fully engaged in a fair and open consultation process concerning projects that threaten human safety and potentially cause harmful impacts on the environment. Consultations should be recorded and made publicly available.
      • All levels and departments of government to be open and transparent about their decision making.
      • To see information sharing and cooperation among relevant government departments at all levels.
      • Watershed stewardship groups to be engaged early in conversation with government authorities concerning proposed development projects in order to prevent environmental impacts in their watershed.
  • 10.
    • Furthermore:
      • The development of Watershed Management Plans to involve Watershed Stewardship Groups (WSG ’ s), local government authorities, Watershed Planning Advisory Councils (WPACs) and the Alberta Water Council (AWC), environmental non-government organizations (ENGO ’ S) and concerned citizens. All parties need to understand the full range of decisions that are made concerning water in their regions, and work together to prevent harm to their watersheds.
      • Watershed Management Plans that factor into strong regional stewardship plans that are sensitive to local circumstances.
      • Town Plans and Watershed Management Plans to become a vital part of decision making, not dust collectors on a shelf.
    • Recommendation: The WPACs could add to their websites a list of watershed groups within their regions, including their management plans, issues, concerns, and project successes. This could be a one-stop location for the public to access information about stewardship groups in their region.
    • http://sites.google.com/site/tawatinawstewards