July 19, 2020
Flowing northeast from B.C.’s Rockies, the Peace River is considered the largest watershed within Alberta, in addition to being one of the most ecologically diverse and productive rivers that is essential to life in the north.
In order to protect the ecological integrity of the watershed and its valley, AWA believes that the Peace River warrants a science-based management plan that monitors and protects water quality. The Peace River and its valley also warrant increased protection that buffers the cumulative effects from industrial and agricultural land-uses taking place on surrounding landscapes.
Originating from British Columbia’s Finlay River in Rockies, the Peace River stretches across the provincial border into Alberta, meandering northeast until confluence with the Athabasca River in the Peace-Athabasca Delta which ultimately forms the Slave River.
The Peace River is the largest watershed within Alberta, and accounts for approximately 28% of the provincial landmass (MPWA 2015). As of 2011, the Peace River watershed supported a population of approximately 165,000 people within Alberta, in addition to providing key year-round riparian habitat and migration corridors for moose, elk and deer. The Peace River and its surrounding landscape also provide habitat for raptors such as golden eagles, sandhill cranes, bald eagles, and osprey. As it extends across northern Alberta, the Peace River traverses the Boreal Forest Natural Region, and portions of the Parkland Natural Region.
Spanning a total length of 1,9123 km, the Peace River is considered a vital lifeline within the province of Alberta. It is the productivity and diversity of this watershed that has been the reason for an influx of people through settlements and landscape conversions into agricultural lands. Continual development and land alterations has contributed to the declining trend in ecological integrity for both aquatic and terrestrial communities. There are moderately populated communities located alongside of the river such as the town of Peace River and Fort Vermillion, in addition to communities such as the Beaver and Bushe River First Nations.
With the exception of privately owned parcels, a significant portion of the Peace River and its valley landscapes reside within the White Zone of Alberta’s public lands. Public lands within the White Zone subscribe to a multiple land use designation, and are managed for natural resource exploration and development, in addition to recreational activities. There are several protected areas dispersed alongside the eastern segment of the Peace River, which total approximately 602km2 of legislatively protected lands. These areas include:
• Dunvegan West Wildland Provincial Park (20,967. 8 Ha)
• Silver Valley Ecological Reserve (1,805.06 Ha)
• Dunvegan Provincial Park (9,26 Ha)
• Peace River Wildland Provincial Park (24,563.18 Ha)
• Greene Valley Provincial Park (3,171 Ha)
• Notikewin Provincial Park (9,696.76 Ha)
In the past, the Peace River and associated landscapes were managed under the Integrated Resource Plan of the Lower Peace River with the intent of developing natural resources to benefit surrounding communities. This plan, however is relatively dated, and will be replaced with Land-use Frameworks of the Upper Peace and Lower Peace once they are completed. In 2008, the Government of Alberta committed “addressing cumulative impacts on the environment and to managing social, economic and environmental realities and priorities in a holistic manner” (Alberta Parks 2018).
In the White Area of Alberta, public land is managed for recreation, wildlife habitat, and soil and water conservation. Land-use activities such as industrial, commercial or agricultural developments on public lands within the White Area are managed by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) and Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) by means of government granted dispositions. Public land dispositions are regulated under two pieces of legislation within the province of Alberta: the Public Lands Act and Public Lands Administration Regulation. Other relevant provincial legislation includes, but is not limited to Recreational Access Regulations, Responsible Energy Development Act and the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (Alberta 2014). Alberta Environment and Parks is also responsible for the creation, administration and management of provincial protected areas.
Along the span of the Peace River, some of the surrounding landscapes have legislative protection that differ in category, and therefore, the allowed level of activity that can occur within them. Those areas include provincial parks, wildland provincial parks and ecological reserves.
Dunvegan, Greene Valley, and Notikewin Provincial Park are managed under the Provincial Parks Act, with intentions to: “preserve natural heritage of provincial significance or higher, while supporting outdoor recreation, heritage tourism, and natural heritage appreciation activities that depend upon and are compatible with environmental protection” (Alberta Parks 2001).
Wildland Provincial Parks
The protected areas of Duvegan West and Peace River Wildland Provincial Park are managed under the Provincial Parks Act with the intentions “to preserve and protect natural heritage and provide opportunities for compatible backcountry recreation” (Alberta Parks 2001).
Finally, the Silver Valley Ecological Reserve is managed under the Wilderness Areas, Ecological Reserves, Natural Areas and Heritage Rangelands Act with the intent to “To preserve and protect natural heritage in an undisturbed state for scientific research or education” (Alberta Parks 2001).
AWA believes that expanding and creating new protected areas within the Peace River watershed is key to conserving a vital ecosystem and its accompanying biodiversity. AWA believes that management strategies should be science-based with a multi-stakeholder perspective from landowners and other grassroots organizations such as the “Friends of the Peace River Valley”. Appropriate conservation strategies should also include Traditional Knowledge and co-management from local First Nations. In order to protect river flows, wildlife habitat, and water quality AWA believes that we must:
• Restrict the development of hydroelectric projects that would result in placing dams or weirs across the Peace River
• Limited any further agricultural developments that would alter or destroy the remaining native Peace River Parkland Natural Subregion or the conversion of any remaining tracts of native habitat.
AWA’s Peace River Area of Concern is approximately 2624 km2 in size, and begins at the Alberta-British Columbia border. The Peace River winds its way northeast until it reaches the western boundary of Wood Buffalo National Park.
The Peace River is approximately 1,923 km long, originating from Finlay River located within the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia. This watershed drains an area of approximately 182,500km2 within Alberta, and accounts for 28% of the provincial landmass (MPWA 2014). AWA’s Peace River Area of Concern begins at the provincial border and extends across northern Alberta until it reaches Wood Buffalo National Park. The Peace River is one of the largest rivers within Alberta, being nationally significant as it supplies water to the Peace-Athabasca Delta which is one of the largest freshwater deltas in the world.
Within AWA’s Peace River Area of Concern, the Peace River watershed is composed of three smaller river sub-basins: Smoky/Wapiti River Sub-Basin, Central Peace River Sub-basin and the Lower Peace River Sub-Basin (MPWA 2014). The major tributaries within the Peace River watershed is the Smoky and Wabasca River, in addition to multiple smaller tributaries, creeks, streams and lakes. The watershed also contains numerous springs and aquifers providing groundwater sources (MPWA 2014).
Two major ice advances affected the surficial geology and glacial stratigraphy. The surface morainal deposits, ridges and flutes are indicative of an unobstructed southerly flowing Laurentide Ice Sheet in the last glacial advance. Ancient glacial-meltwater lakes are thought to have structured the soil composition of this region. Cretaceous bedrock underlies most of the Peace River which includes strata such as shales, sandstones, siltstones, and thin coal and bentonite seams (Leslie & Fenton 2001 ).
AWA’s Peace River Area of Concern has areas which are environmentally Significant on a provincial and national scale. The Peace River-Dunvegan area of this watershed has been assessed as a nationally environmentally significant area; it comprises an area of approximately 55,864 ha, and stretches from the vicinity of the Smoky River upstream (the town of Peace River) to the B.C. border. Fossil beds are abundant in bedrock exposures along the valley walls within this area, with hoodoos occuring along the south slopes along the upper reaches east of the B.C. border. Given that this region of Peace River traverses through the Natural Subregions of the Peace River Parkland and Dry Mixedwood, the Peace River-Dunvegan area is one of the most diverse and productive river valleys of the Parkland and Boreal Forest of Canada.
The diverse vegetation communities that occur along the river valley contribute to the provincial significance of the Peace River. South-facing slopes of the Peace River valley support typical prairie vegetation such as grasses and cacti, with the microclimate near Dunvegan allows for populations of the western meadowlarks, and savannah sparrows.
The most northern extent of the Peace River near the town of Fort Vermillion is provincially significant because it serves as the major waterway for local communities, important for agriculture developments, in addition to draining into Wood Buffalo National Park.
The southwestern segment of AWA’s Peace River Area of Concern has stretches of nationally significant areas as it is the main watercourse traversing a variety of Natural Regions, and serves as a wildlife corridor connecting different ecosystems.
The Peace River travels through two of Alberta’s Natural Regions; the Parkland and Boreal Forest Natural Regions.The southwestern segment of the Peace River located near the Alberta-B.C provincial border as it drifts traverses its way through the Peace River Parkland Natural Subregion as it drifts its way north. As the Peace River progresses its way north, it passes through the Central and Dry Mixedwood Natural Subregions of Alberta. Each of these Subregions represent a unique ensemble of wildlife and natural productivity that is integral to sustaining many surrounding communities.
(Information sourced from the Alberta Government)
This Natural Subregion encompasses the northern extremity of AWA’s Peace River Area of Concern. It has a continental climate, which is defined by cold winters and warm summers. The undulating plains, extensive wetlands, and hummocky uplands of this Subregion are dominated by stands of pure aspen, white spruce-aspen, or pure white spruce stands which are generally located in areas of glacial till. Jack pine stands occur in areas with more coarse material, with black spruce being found in bogs and fens. Gray Luvisolic soils are dominant in this landscape in addition to Gleysolic soils. Canadian buffaloberry, low brush cranberry, and prickly rose are common to the understory. A mix of wild sarsaparilla, hairy wild rye, and tall lungwort are featured in herb communities in addition to feathermosses.
Peace River Parkland:
This Subregion is characterized by undulating plains and steep southern-facing slopes that contour the middle of the westernsegment of the Peace River. The Peace River Parkland is the most northern Natural Subregion within the Parkland Natural Region, and is also the smallest Natural Subregion within Alberta. Forest stands within this area are dominated by aspen, white spruce, and some balsam poplar. Wetlands including black spruce and willow fens are common as well. Grasslands tend have Solonetzuc soils which are populated by species such as low goldenrod, inland bluegrass, three-flowered avens, intermediate oat grass, and sedges. Grasslands can also occur on southern-facing slopes and are dominated by pasture sage, western porcupine grass, mountain golden rod, June grass and sedges. Northerly grasslands located on river and lake deposits are distinguished a wheat grass-sedge type that are interpressed between willow groves and thickets of common wild rose and buckbrush.
This Subregion is defined by rolling plains with interweaving fens and forest stands which are located in the westernmost segment of the Peace River as it begins to extend north. Mixed or pure forest stands of balsam poplar, aspen and white spruce exist, with wetlands occurring at lower elevations. Shrubland species within this area can include low-bush cranberry, beaked hazelnut, Canada buffaloberry, redosier dogwood, and rose. Grasslands tend to be on dry, southern-facing slopes are populated by sedges, wheat grass, June grass, and porcupine grass. This area is characterized by large stands of forests dotted with wetlands which eventually level into flowing plains. Mixed stands of deciduous and coniferous trees include species such as aspen, white spruce, black spruce and jack pine. Jack pine stands are commonly found in dryer areas, with Black spruce peatlands in more moist areas. Understory species include but are not limited to: beaked hazelnut, Canada buffaloberry, howy aster, prickly rose, green alder, tall lungwort, and low-bush cranberry. Herbs and moss species include marsh reedgrass, stairstep moss, and Schreber’s moss.
Natural features such as nutrient content, water flows, and temperature of the Peace River contribute to the observed high productivity and biodiversity. Relatively low turbidity paired with numerous suitable substrates for spawning render the fisheries within the Peace River plentiful (Butcher 1987). Northern squawfish are only present within the Peace River, in addition to rare largescale suckers. Species commonly found within the river include:
• Arctic grayling,
• rainbow trout,
• Mountain Whitefish,
• Golden eye,
• Yellow perch, and
• Northern Pike.
The Peace River and its riparian corridors provide important habitat to a variety of mammal and bird species such as:
• Black bears,
• Grizzly bears,
• golden eagles,
• bald eagles, and
The valley and banks of the Peace River also serve as hibernacula habitat for Wandering and Red-sided garter snakes, in addition to providing staging habitat for Canadian geese.
The Peace River wilderness supports grizzly bear populations, however, past and current industrial, commercial, and agricultural developments have caused the conversion of native habitat into developed land. A considerable amount of native habitat that remains has also been fragmented. These changes in habitat quantity and quality has contributed to the declining trend for Alberta’s grizzly bear population. The western portion of the Peace River, which is adjacent to the Alberta/British Columbia border, is located within the “Recovery Zone” of the Alberta Government management area (BMA1) for threatened grizzly bear populations. The Recovery Zone is designated habitat that exists with the intent to support the recovery of the species by placing limits on linear disturbances and protecting core habitat (Government of Alberta 2016).
The Dane-zaa (historically referred to as the Beaver tribe), and Cree First Nations inhabited the Peace River region, with the Cree First Nation living in the south and east, while the Dane-zaa First Nation inhabited the northwest. According to Dane-zaa oral history, the Peace River is named for the resolution of a territory conflict between the Nations.
Many recreational opportunities exist within the Peace River wilderness and protected areas such as:
• Backcountry and front country hiking,
• Backcountry and front country camping,
• Mountain biking/cycling,
• Canoeing/ kayaking,
• Equestrian riding,
• Birding, and
• wildlife viewing.
AWA’s Peace River Area of Concern has been subject to extensive industrial and agricultural developments. Native habitat conversions, fragmentation, and nutrient loading are some of the common environmental effects that accompany the level of settlement and development occurring within this region. AWA believes that in order to maintain what remains for native habitat, and in doing so the ecological integrity of the Peace River and its valley, a science-based management strategy focusing on the cumulative effect of all land uses needs to be developed between all stakeholders. The management framework for the Peace River should prioritize cooperation and co-management between multiple stakeholders, incorporate Traditional Knowledge and co-management with local First Nations. Multiple stakeholder collaboration for the Peace River and its associated landscapes should prioritize the conservation of what remains for local habitat, minimizing the level of ground disturbances to reduce the likelihood of negative environmental impacts on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems within this watershed.
Dams on watercourses have a variety of purposes such as industrial, agricultural and domestic uses. These hydrological alterations are known to cause site-specific alterations to river ecology, in addition to effect on riparian and downstream ecosystems. Hydroelectric reservoir dams create in-situ ecosystems that are incompatible for the survival of many native species because of fluctuating water levels and temperatures. Dams also inhibit the flow of water within a river acting as a barrier to organic materials and the dispersal of a variety of aquatic species. The reservoirs of dams tend to accumulate a significant amount of organic material, dissolved and suspended, which has implications for in situ and downstream aquatic ecosystems. Overtime, this organic matter can begin to decompose, consuming significant amounts of dissolved oxygen from the water, further contributing to the inhospitable conditions of the reservoir, and can limit the productivity and sustainability of reservoirs, or downstream habitats (Kingsford 2001).
Dams also hinder the movement and dispersal of wildlife; dams can disrupt the movement of many fish species which can have negative consequences on population dynamics. Dams have been shown to impede the genetic flow and the distribution of species such as bull trout (Molecular Ecology 2001). Disrupted species dispersal can cause population fragmentation, lower genetic diversity, and ultimately decrease the survivability of a population (Jager et al 2001).
After 15 years of involvement and opposition by AWA and local grassroots organizations, January 2015 markd the withdrawl of TransAlta’s Glacier Dunvegan hydrological project that would have built a 6-metre high dams across the Peace River within the municipal district of Fairview, near the community of Dunvegan.
In summer 2015, AWA began a concerted effort to stop the proposed 24-metre high Amisk dam across the Peace River, about 15 kilometres upstream from the Dunvegan Bridge. The Amisk project proposed a 50 kilometer long headpond that would flood river valley bottom and slopes, potentially washing out rare native parkland vegetation both within and outside of the Dunvegan West Wildland Provincial Park. The instability of sandy valley slopes within the Peace River basin are prone to slumping, which could be exacerbated with the construction of the Amisk dam.
The proposed Amisk headpond had the potential to affect areas that could be prime candidates for stronger ecological protection identified through the Lower Peace Regional Plan process. Amisk’s environmental impact studies will be assessed by federal and provincial authorities due to Environment Canada’s assessment of the project’s “potential to cause significant adverse environmental effects.”
Two dams are currently located on the Peace River: the W.A.C. Bennett Dam and the Peace Canyon Dam. AWA is opposed to any additional hydroelectric infrastructure developed along the Peace River given the potential negative ecological impacts. As Alberta strives for green energy, AWA is convinced there are plentiful opportunities that are less likely to cause negative ecological impacts on a vital watershed within Alberta.
Given the proximity to the Peace River, and the favorable climatic conditions and natural parameters of the Peace River Parkland, Dry Mixedwood, and Central Mixedwood Natural Subregions, agricultural developments have flourished converting a considerable amount of native habitat within these Subregions. This mosaic of grasslands, wetlands and forests offers important habitats for many wildlife species, however it is disappearing at an alarming rate. Considering the underrepresentation of these Subregions within Alberta’s protected areas network, AWA believes a precedence must be set to protect what remains of these landscapes within AWA’s Peace River Area of Concern.
AWA travels to Peace River and Fort Vermilion to connect with some members, colleagues, and grassroots organizations for updates on ongoing land-use and conservation issues, in addition to exploring new landscapes.
As a part of the northern tour, AWA attends the Mighty Peace Watershed Alliance’s AGM held in the town of Peace River. AWA learns more about the watershed council’s current projects, and what the group plans to prioritize and focus on for the foreseeable future.
AWA also visits Fort Vermilion to connectwith the Hungry Bend Sandhills Society (HBSS); a local grassroots organization that has long advocated for increased protection and improved land-use management for the sensitive local wilderness. AWA participates in the HBSS AGM, discussing potential Finding solutions to conserving more wilderness in light of the accelerated conversion of native habitat into cropland, and an observed increase in motorized recreation on local landscapes.
AWA receives a letter from the Stakeholder Engagement Lead for Amisk Hydro Project (AHP) Development Corporation. In the letter, AHP indicates that they were not planning to continue the collection of environmental data for the winter of 2018/2019. In personal correspondence with AHP’s Stakeholder Engagement Lead, AWA learns that AHP did not want to further invest into a long-term project such as Amisk, as it is not feasible without having a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). APH also indicates their preference to see the project carried forward by means of the Alberta government’s Renewable Electricity Program (REP); to date, the REP has shown preferential tendency towards wind and solar project, and has yet to accept any bids for hydroelectric projects.
Amisk informs AWA of its project timeline delay, with field work planned for 2017 and submitting the Environmental Impact Assessment in 2019.
AWA applies for Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s participant funding to participate in the federal independent review panel process for the Amisk hydro project.
The Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change announces the referral of the environmental assessment of the proposed Amisk Hydroelectric Project to an independent review panel. The decision to refer the environmental assessment was made after considering its “potential to cause significant adverse environmental effects and concerns expressed by the public and Indigenous groups in relation to these effects.”
Alberta Environment and Parks releases the final Terms of Reference for the Environmental Impact Assessment Report of the proposed Amisk Hydroelectric Project. As AWA requested, the proponent is now required to describe “a full range of potential dam heights and potential storage levels” rather than just one dam height.
AWA provides comments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency on which aspects of the environment may be affected by the Amisk Hydroelectric project proposal and what should be examined by the proponent during the environmental assessment.
AWA submits a letter to Alberta Environment and Parks regarding the Amisk project proposed terms of reference for Environmental Impact Assessment. AWA also submits a letter to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to comment on the projects potential environmental effects and to inform a decision on whether a federal environmental assessment is required.
Amisk holds open houses in Grande Prairie, Fairview, and Peace River to deliver project information and receive stakeholder input. AWA meets with Amisk for project updates and to relay concerns about sensitive wildlife impacts, lack of fish passage, and riparian degradation.
TransAlta completely withdraws the Dunvegan hydro project. It cites unfavourable project economics, substantial information requests from stakeholders, and a potentially long and costly hearing process as reasons for its decision.
AWA submits to the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) a list of the issues to be presented at the Dunvegan extension hearing, and its intention to file evidence, cross-examine the applicant and give argument, and retain experts to give expert evidence. AWA issues include cumulative impacts on fish and wildlife habitat and movement, the need for an updated Environmental Impact Assessment, and the uncertainty of the project’s overall need.
The Commission made a ruling on the standing of interested parties, including AWA, regarding the Dunvegan project time extension application. AWA did not receive standing but the Commission granted AWA participation in the hearing, should one proceed based on the standing of other interested parties.
AWA files a statement of concern and requests the Commission not extend the time as requested by Glacier. AWA submits that there is no need to wait until 2020 to see if market conditions will be favourable for the continuation of the Project. AWA believes when the market conditions become favourable, and Glacier has updated its EIA and reviewed the cumulative impacts of its project, it can then reapply for approval to construct the project. AWA also noted that TransAlta had not completed geotechnical, transportation and environmental studies that were supposed to fill information gaps as a condition of 2009 approvals.
Amisk Hydroelectric Project Development Corp. (Amisk) initiates communication with AWA regarding their plans to develop a 17 meter high dam and 50 km long headpond hydroelectric project on the Peace River. The proposed site is located approximately 28km southwest of the town of Fairview and 15km upstream of the Dunvegan Bridge on Highway 2 (13km upstream of approved Dunvegan project). Baseline studies and an application submission were scheduled to occur in the following two years, with a construction timeline of approximately 5 years. AWA meets with proponents to better understand the project and discuss environmental impacts.
TransAlta applies for approval of a 9-year time extension to complete construction of Glacier Power Ltd.’s hydroelectric development by May 30, 2023. TransAlta informs AWA the extension would “provide more time for further preparatory work to be completed and allow for the construction timelines to coincide with electricity market conditions.
TransAlta reports that it has completed the primary data collection and analysis at the Dunvegan hydro project site. According to TransAlta, this collection and analysis comprises “characterizing the geotechnical conditions on site” and “establishing an environmental baseline.”
Project update pages on TransAlta’s website report that “Through its wholly-owned subsidiaries, Canadian Hydro Developers, Inc. and Glacier Power Ltd., TransAlta is proposing to build a run-of-the-river hydro facility across the Peace River about two kilometres upstream of the Highway #2 bridge crossing at Dunvegan […] The geotechnical and engineering work previously undertaken has not provided all the data necessary for us to complete the design and we will be taking the rest of 2010 to collect more data.” AWA is pleased that this project has been delayed while TransAlta reviews and recognizes data gaps, and will monitor the development of this proposal.
The Joint Review Panel decides to approve Glacier Power’s Dunvegan hydro application. The Panel finds that ” the cumulative effects that are likely to result from the Project, in combination with other projects or activities that have been or will be carried out, are not likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects.”
Day 5 – Dunvegan Special Report Friday September 26th the B.C. Hydro panel resumed with cross examination by Mr. Bill Kennedy for the Joint Review Panel. Panels from the Town of Fairview and the Town of Peace River made presentations. In closing arguments Mr. Richard Secord, representing the Coalition, refuted Glacier Power’s criticisms of the Coalition, their expert witnesses and their rights to oppose this project and make presentation to the joint review panel. Mr. Secord’s closing arguments referred to the decision made by the panel in 2003 that denied this project and highlighted for the joint review panel that the facts related to the reasons for denying the application in 2003 still stand today. The joint review panel adjourned at 7:20p.m. A decision is expected within 90 days. The Coalition respectfully submits that the panel must conclude this application must be denied.
Day 4 – Dunvegan Special Report On Thursday, Sept 25, following early morning discussions about the agreements that Glacier Power has with the Town of Peace River and B.C. Hydro, the Government of Canada panel, including Transport Canada and Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Of interest was the clarification of DFO’s role in the province of Alberta. Ms. Gabrielle Kosmider explained “DFO serves as the managers of the fish habitat, and we work very close with the provincial government, specifically ASRD, who manage the fish and fish populations, they serve as the fish managers.” She further explained that the whitefish and bull trout populations are of concern, that they are unique in that they are located in the transition zone between cool water and cold water, and that the genetic characteristics of these species and populations are valued. The Coalition panel included Dr. Michael Church, David Mayhood and Chris Wearmouth. Their evidence included that of the written submission with emphasis on geomorphology and sedimentation and the calculations to determine the headpond size, gaps in the EIA, and impacts of this project on the Peace River fish and their habitat and the need for the project. The Coalition panel was cross examined and excused. During his testimony, Mr. Mayhood reflected on a particularly meaningful quote from Aldo Leopold who said that the first rule of intelligent tinkering is to keep all the parts. And the first rule of keeping all the parts is to know where they are, and where they go, and what they do. ACFN (Pat Marcel) gave evidence and was followed by the B.C. Hydro panel. The hearings sat until 7:30p.m.
Day 3 – Dunvegan Special Report Fairview, Alberta. Today proved to be a long day in the hearing of the Dunvegan Hydroelectric Project. From 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. the future of the Peace River at Dunvegan was discussed. The day began with the Joint Panel continuing their questioning of the proponent of the project, Glacier Power. After counsel redirected, Dr. Faye Hicks, an expert on ice regimes made a brief presentation and answered questions regarding her views of the project’s impacts on the characteristics of ice on the Peace River, including its formation and break-up. The Concerned Residents for the Ongoing Service at Shaftesbury were up next followed by the Government of Canada. The day ended with a presentation by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) on the fishways that are propsed and were designed collabratively between Glacier Power and DFO. Tomorrow is the big day for AWA. We expect to make our presentation and field questions in the afternoon. A transcript of the day is available online at http://mail.tscript.com/trans/nrcb/sep_24_08/index.htm
Day 2 – Dunvegan Special Report Fairview, Alberta. This is the second day of the joint hearing regarding the Dunvegan Hydroelectric Project. Richard Secord resumed cross-examination today of the proponent of the dam, Glacier Power, on behalf of a coalition of local and provincial environmental groups, of which AWA is a member. Secord questioned Glacier’s experts in regards to the reports produced for the Coalition by Dr. Michael Church of the University of British Columbia on hydrology and geomorphology and Dave Mayhood of FWR Freshwater Research Ltd. on the project’s impacts to the fisheries of the Peace River. After Mr. Secord was finished the lawyer for the Joint Review Panel and the Panel themselves began cross-examination of Glacier Power. The Panel’s questioning continues tomorrow. A particular interesting part of the day arose when it came to light that Glacier Power has both a confidential agreement with BC Hydro and another with the Town of Peace River. It was questioned whether the Joint Review Panel could fully evaluate the project if aspects of it were contained in secret agreements outside of the Panel’s knowledge. Further discussion of this matter is expected.
Day 1 – Dunvegan Special Report Fairview Alberta. The hearing for Glacier Power’s Dunvegan Hydroelectric Project application began in Fairview. Glacier Power presented a lengthy opening statement followed by their response to the submissions by other interested parties. The coalition of Alberta Wilderness Association, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (Northern Alberta Chapter), South Peace Environmental Association, and the Peace Parklands Naturalists was the focus of much of this response, earning 19 pages of their rebuttal. After Glacier Power’s presentation, cross-examination got underway. The Government of Canada asked to delay their questioning due to experts that had not yet arrived. BC Hydro declined to ask questions of Glacier. Next, Ron Kruhlak, representing the Concerned Residents for Ongoing Service at Shaftebury queried Glacier Power . Kruhlak questioned why they had been unable to come to an agreement with his clients regarding the disruption of transportation at the crossing due to delays in the formation of the ice bridge, should the project go ahead. The day ended with our coalition’s counsel, Richard Secord cross-examining Glacier Power in regards to the impacts the project will have on the fish populations of the Peace River. Tomorrow will once again see Mr. Secord questioning Glacier Power as to the effects this project will likely have on the environment, including the geomorphology and fisheries. Transcripts of the proceeding are publicly available online through tscript.com. – Chris Wearmouth
The Coalition participates as interveners in the federal-provincial Joint Review Panel hearing into the Glacier Power Dunvegan hydro proposal. The Coalition calls as witnesses: AWA conservation specialist Chris Wearmouth, aquatic ecologist David Mayhood and Dr. Michael Church, authority on Peace River morphology under the influence of dam regulation.
On cumulative effects: Glacier states that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency agrees with its scenarios, including that Bennett Dam effects are part of the ‘baseline’ case. While BC Hydro’s Site C dam proposal had been announced, Glacier stated that there was no project-specific information available to assess. The Coalition stated that cumulative effects were not realistically considered, including the role of past development on the study area and the basin as a whole, and that this is essential to determine whether the basin can accommodate another major development without pushing the aquatic ecosystem over a critical threshold.
Four environmental groups referred to as “the Coalition” – AWA, CPAWS Northern Alberta, Peace Parkland Naturalists and South Peace Environment Association – submit comments to the federal-provincial Joint Review Panel (JRP) for the October 2008 JRP hearing into the Glacier Power Dunvegan hydro proposal. The Coalition requests that the project be rejected because of unacceptable adverse impacts that will not be mitigated. They state that Glacier’s information is deficient on impacts to: Peace River morphology – and therefore on sedimentation, water flows and ice formation; fish populations and fish habitat; rare plants; and wildlife habitat. The coalition requests that alternative means of power generation be analyzed.
The NRCB and AEUB provide joint notice on December 21, 2007 of pre-hearing meeting and joint notice of hearing for the Peace River Area based on Glacier Power Ltd. Dunvegan Hydro-Electric Facility application for approval to construct and operate an 100-megawatt, run-of-the-river hydroelectric facility on the Peace River 2km upstream of the Dunvegan Bridge.
Glacier Power submits another application and Environmental Impacts Assessment (EIA) for a Dunvegan hydroelectric power project to Alberta’s EUB and NRCB.
At Glacier Power’s request, Alberta Environment issues a Terms of Reference for an Environmental Impacts Assessment (EIA) for another Dunvegan hydroelectric project proposal, at the same location in Alberta’s Peace River Valley. The EIA is required to fulfill requirements under provincial laws as well as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Transport Canada announce that they will conduct a screening commencing May 12, 2004 of Glacier Power’s proposed Dunvegan Hydroelectric Project. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency will act as the Federal Environmental Assessment Coordinator for this environmental assessment. Glacier Power, a subsidiary of Canadian Hydro Developers, wins support from the Town of Peace River for a proposed $200-million, 100-megawatt “run of river” hydroelectric project on the Peace River. The company has signed a detailed memorandum with the town, undertaking several commitments to mitigate against flooding. Glacier Power anticipates a public hearing in spring 2005. Pending approval, construction would begin in 2006 (EnviroLine vol. 15, no. 9/10).
The EUB and NRCB deny Glacier Power’s application to build a six-metre high, power-generating weir across the Peace River just upstream of the Highway 2 bridge at Dunvegan. “In its findings, the Panel noted that while each of the potential negative economic, social, and environmental effects of the project, if they were to occur, are substantive on their own, their cumulative effect clearly outweighs the social and economic benefits of the project to the local community, as well as to Albertans in general.” With respect to fish population impacts, the Panel notes the absence of clear baseline information and numerous unresolved questions regarding both upstream and downstream passage of fish. Canadian Hydro Developers Inc. makes a formal request to the EUB and the NRCB for a review of their rejection of the company’s proposed $200 million, 80-megawatt Dunvegan “run of river” hydroelectric project on the Peace River. The company says it now has an agreement-in-principle with the Town of Peace River to address the town’s concerns about potential flooding. Canadian Hydro says it is hoping to get a new hearing and a new decision by the end of 2004 or early 2005 (EnviroLine vol. 14, no. 17/18).
“Friends of the Peace” participate as interveners in the EUB/NRCB hearing into the Glacier Power Dunvegan hydro proposal.
In their submission to the hearing regarding the Dunvegan Hydroelectric Project, Friends of the Peace (including AWA) made the following points:
The rest of the submission includes information on potential impact of the project on fish, stream flows, slumping, other wildlife, and transportation, as well as cumulative effects, including those related to the Bennett Dam in B.C.
“Friends of the Peace” submit comments to the Natural Resources Conservation Board for the October 2002 EUB/NRCB hearing into the Glacier Power Dunvegan hydro proposal. They also request a full public Review Panel under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to strengthen environment review requirements, and to enable greater intervener capacity to examine this project appropriately. The Friends request further scientific data on fish populations, fish passage, valley slope slumping risks, and wildlife crossings. They outline concerns with adverse effects to the Peace River ecosystem from the project and also from cumulative development impacts, notably BC Hydro’s Bennett Dam and foreseeable future projects’ impacts. The Friends request that alternative means of power generation be analyzed. Overall, the Friends request that the project be rejected because of significant project and cumulative adverse negative impacts that will not be mitigated.
Glacier Power submits a revised project description. The changes include an altered fishway design: the two fishways, located at each end of the structure, were decreased in width to 10 m, and downstream fish bypass structures were included in the powerhouse design.
Glacier Power submits a revised project description in its replies to supplemental information requests from provincial authorities. The changes include an altered fishway design of two 50 meter wide fishway passages developed in consultation with federal government Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Alberta government department of Sustainable Resource Development.
AWA calls for a comprehensive federal or joint federal-provincial environmental review of Canadian Hydro Developers’ proposed run-of-river hydroelectric project on the Peace River to investigate the social, environmental, and economic impacts of the project. Canadian Hydro says such a review isn’t necessary. The Peace is an important fishery and recreational river and the project may further impact the Peace-Athabasca Delta in Wood Buffalo National Park. The project may also interfere with future efforts to enable flooding of the delta, which has already been seriously affected by the Bennett Dam on the Peace in B.C.
A public hearing on the proposed Dunvegan weir project is adjourned until June 17, 2002 to allow Canadian Hydro Developers to provide additional information requested by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Alberta Environment.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans concludes that “the Department cannot proceed with completing its environmental review [of the proposed Dunvegan weir project] under CEAA until additional information has been provided” (letter to Glacier Power, August 27).
June 16: The EUB and NRCB hold a prehearing regarding Glacier Power’s proposed Dunvegan weir project in Fairview. In its subsequent report, the joint Panel notes a number of issues that need to be addressed at the hearing, including the project’s impact on
In AWA’s submission for the EUB/NRCB prehearing regarding Glacier Power’s proposed Dunvegan weir project, concerns are expressed regarding the lack of information provided by Glacier Power about the following:
Canadian Hydro Developers announce that its environmental impact assessment for the Dunvegan run-of-river project on the Peace River has been reviewed and judged complete by Alberta Environment and other federal and provincial regulatory agencies.
June 19: Glacier Power Ltd., a subsidiary of Canadian Hydroelectric Developers Inc., files an application with the NRCB and EUB to construct and operate the Dunvegan Hydroelectric Project on the Peace River two kilometres upstream of the Highway 2 bridge at Dunvegan. The proposed project would include a 6-metre high weir, which would back up the river for 15 km, flooding about 50 to 100 hectares. Although the site is attractive for the project, its scenic qualities also make it a prime protection site, according to Helene Walsh, who sits on the local SP2000 committee.
April 22: Glacier Power holds a public open house in Fairview regarding its proposed “run-of-river” project on the Peace River and declares that the “attendance and response were excellent. 150 people attended, and of the 57 who indicated an opinion, 53 were in support of the project.”
The high, walled canyon-like reach of the river south of the town of Fairview is studied as a possible site for the Dunvegan Dam and Reservoir.