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Tag: Livingstone Landowners Group

Dried Up, What Now? attracts engaged local audience

A locally filmed 30-minute documentary that hones in on the region’s ongoing water crisis offered up its first two viewings last Saturday in Lundbreck and Pincher Creek.

Dried Up, What Now? features close to two dozen voices, including those of residents, scientists, the environmental community and local government, on the current state of the Oldman River Reservoir both upstream and downstream.

While not meant to be politically charged, the Livingstone Landowners Group says it’s a story that needs to be told “to help raise awareness of the impact of declining water levels in the region and spur discussion on solutions.”

The film, part of a trilogy, follows Finding Water and Running Dry by producers Yvan Lebel, who resides in Saskatchewan, and Kevin Van Tighem of Lethbridge, a well-known naturalist and author.

“I’ve been concerned about headwaters health for years,” said Van Tighem, when asked why he became involved in the first venture some five years ago.

“When I retired, I decided to write a book, Headwaters of the Bow River, and what each different creek has to tell us in terms of a story. The more I got into that, the more I woke up to the fact that we just don’t understand that our land-use decisions are actually water-management decisions and we are not always making the best water commitment decisions.”

He added that the province’s population is growing yet its water supply is not improving.

 

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Like the Livingstone Landowners Group, Lebel doesn’t necessarily see this film, or the others, as political statements.

“The message is just to warn us to be aware and, in a sense, to invite people to do something,” he said before the second showing of the documentary, at the Vertical Church in Pincher Creek.

“We’re giving the facts. We’re showing what is happening and bringing some solutions. The goal is more to educate people. No ranting. No accusing anyone of anything.”

That sentiment is shared by Bobbi Lambright, communications co-ordinator for the Livingstone Landowners Group.

“We try to be a very fact-based organization. So, when it comes to issues and concerns, we like to do our homework. We want to make sure we have the correct information,” she told Shootin’ the Breeze.

“As this became a major issue, we felt it was worthwhile documenting it and getting some insight.”

In one instance, the film shows the rings of a large tree, which indicate both historical long periods of drought and stretches of high-water flows.

Aerial footage of sections of the reservoir as they looked in 2019 versus bone-dry river beds from last year is also featured during the production.

While those behind the project say they aren’t finger-pointing, Van Tighem, like most, is concerned about what the coming summer will bring, checking the snowpack as recently as last Saturday.

“We’re still about 25 per cent below normal. We have less snow storage in the headwaters than we had last year and last year was a disaster … we had an early thaw,” he said.

“We get an early thaw this year, with that lousy snowpack, it makes our message that much more critical because we don’t want to waste a single bit of water when there’s so little to begin with.”

“Our landscape is leaking like a sieve,” he said. “We gotta get it fixed.”

 

 

 

View of Grassy Mountain coal pit on mountainside with blue sky and mountain range in the background

Application made to explore Grassy Mountain deposit

A proposed coal development project in Crowsnest Pass could show renewed signs of life if a deep-drilling permit is approved by the Alberta Energy Regulator.

Known as the Grassy Mountain Coal Project, the plan first put forward in 2015 by Benga Mining Ltd. would have seen the construction and operation of an open-pit steel production mine.

Estimates, at the time, were that the facility would be able to produce up to 4.5 million tonnes of processed coal each year, but a provincial-federal joint review panel ruled in 2021 that the controversial project was “not in the public interest.”

Acting on the panel’s recommendation, the federal government then rejected the project, saying it would likely cause “significant adverse environmental effects.”

Earlier this month, Northback Holdings, formerly Benga, submitted an application to the AER for exploratory work at the site, about seven kilometres north of Blairmore.

The related permit request is for the purpose of drilling “to depths deeper than 150 metres and no deeper than 550 metres on a combination of Crown land and Northback’s privately owned land, commencing on Oct. 15, 2023,” said an application letter from Northback’s senior manager of regulatory approvals, Donna Venzi.

The permit request was received by the AER on Sept. 6.

 

Aerial view of the Cowley Lions Campground on the Castle River in southwestern Alberta

 

Shootin’ the Breeze contacted Northback for clarification and more details of their proposal, but was told there likely wouldn’t be any comment.

A letter from Jennifer Mizuik of Calgary is the only letter of objection relating to the application on the AER website, as of the writing of this story.

“The proposed mining activity raises concerns about the possibility of contaminating local watersheds. These watersheds are vital components of the region’s ecosystem, and their contamination could have far-reaching ecological consequences,” wrote Mizuik in her statement of concern.

“The project has the potential to pose significant threats to aquatic ecosystems in the area. The health of these ecosystems is essential for the well-being of local wildlife and overall environmental balance.”

A local environmental group at the centre of the long-running debate over coal exploration, and this project in particular, is the Livingstone Landowners Group.

“We were heavily involved in the whole Grassy Mountain mine application and opposed it during the regulatory process,” said Bobbi Lambright, the group’s communications director.

In 2021, facing a large swell against the project from not only the environmental movement but a growing number of Albertans, the provincial government reinstated a 1976 coal policy protecting parts of the Rockies.

 

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“Our understanding of it was that they were suspending all approvals of new coal exploration activities,” said Lambright. “So, (our) focus has been on trying to get the existing coal exploration impacts remediated.”

While agreeing with the points brought out in Mizuik’s objection letter, the group feels the issue goes much deeper.

“There’s not much of a mechanism in place right now to ensure that after a company has gone in and created roads and done drilling and really disrupted the landscape in a significant way, that it actually gets cleaned up and restored as closely as possible, to its previous state,” Lambright said.

Livingstone Landowners Group has said it plans to send its own statement of concern.

Besides Northback, Shootin’ the Breeze also reached out to the Alberta Energy Regulator’s media representative for further comment on the process, but was referred to its website and a link to the specific deep-drilling permit.

We also contacted federal Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, who in 2021 made the decision to not approve the project, as well as Foothills MP John Barlow and Livingstone-Macleod MLA Chelsae Petrovic.

We are waiting to hear back.

 

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