Environment Minister Mary Polak and Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Peter Fassbender have issued an environmental assessment certificate to the City of Fernie for the James White Park Wells project.
The decision was made after considering a review led by British Columbia's Environmental Assessment Office. The ministers have issued the certificate with legally enforceable conditions that have given them the confidence to conclude that the project will be constructed, operated and decommissioned in a way that ensures that no significant adverse effects are likely to occur from the project.
”We have been working towards this for a long time and I am really happy to hear that we achieved this and I know that the staff of the City of Fernie will adhere to any and all conditions because they are very aware of what needs to be done and all of the processes that need to be followed,” said Fernie Mayor Mary Giuliano.
“This is really good news for the City of Fernie because it means that we will be, at some point, achieving a secondary water source for the city so that we won’t have turbidity notices as frequently as we have been experiencing in these past years because from now on once we get the James White well on board whenever there is turbidity at our first source we will be able to switch over to the second source.”
There are 23 conditions that are part of the environmental assessment certificate. Design requirements are specified in the certified project description. Each of the conditions and the certified project description are legal requirements that the City of Fernie must meet to be in compliance with the certificate.
The certificate conditions were developed following consultation and input from the Ktunaxa Nation Council, government agencies, communities and the public. Key conditions for the project require the City of Fernie to monitor how the project may affect groundwater and surface water, protect existing wells and surface water tenures from potential effect, and implement annual plans to address drinking water quality concerns. It also requires them to produce annual reports on monitoring for potential impacts on the aquifer. This data will inform the Province, the Interior Health Authority, Fernie and stakeholders when it may be necessary to revise operations to respond to future changes in the local watershed.
Added conditions are that they have to reduce risks to fish and nesting birds and continue to share information with the Ktunaxa Nation Council.
The James White Park Wells project will require various federal and provincial permits to proceed. The Environmental Assessment Office will co-ordinate compliance management efforts with other government agencies to ensure that the office is satisfied that certificate conditions are met throughout the life of the project.
The James White Park Wells project is a groundwater extraction facility that will allow the City of Fernie to address ongoing drinking water quality issues caused by high levels of suspended soils and replace the existing production well that Fernie uses as a secondary water supply source that has become unusable due to sedimentation.
The project will consist of two production wells, a pump house and a 400-millimetre diameter water transmission main, and will extract a maximum of 200 litres of water per second with both wells operating.
British Columbia's Environmental Assessment Office is a neutrally administered office that is required by law to undertake rigorous, thorough reviews of major projects in British Columbia.
These reviews provide significant opportunities for Aboriginal groups, government agencies and the public to influence the outcome of environmental assessments by providing input on the potential for environmental, economic, social, heritage and health effects from a proposed project.