February 2014


  1. 1 February 28, 2014
    1. 1.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 1.2 Activists raise raise concern over deep-well irrigation to P.E.I. MLAs - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
    3. 1.3 Protecting P.E.I.'s groundwater is not debatable - The Guardian Commentary by Alan Hicken
  2. 2 February 27, 2014
    1. 2.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  3. 3 February 26, 2014
    1. 3.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  4. 4 February 25, 2014
    1. 4.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  5. 5 February 24, 2014
    1. 5.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 5.2 Chan deserves better treatment -The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 5.3 Leave pools out of water debate - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  6. 6 February 23, 2014
    1. 6.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 6.2 Processors benefit from more potatoes - The Guardian Letter to the Editor 
    3. 6.3 Exxon CEO Joins Lawsuit Against Fracking Project Because It Will Devalue His $5 Million Property - By Rebecca Leber
  7. 7 February 22, 2014
    1. 7.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 7.2 Man should not drill into aquifer - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  8. 8 February 21, 2014
    1. 8.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  9. 9 February 20, 2014
    1. 9.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 9.2 New Brunswick seeks Atlantic Accord of its own for unexplored offshore - The Canadian Press by Kevin Bissett
  10. 10 February 19, 2014
    1. 10.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 10.2 Farmers split on Agricultural Growth Act National: Farmers Union opposed to restrictions on seed use - CBC News website article
  11. 11 February 18, 2014
    1. 11.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  12. 12 February 17, 2014
    1. 12.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 12.2 CETA trade deal still shrouded in tight secrecy - The Guardian Commentary by Scott Sinclair
  13. 13 February 16, 2014
    1. 13.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 13.2 Corridor soars on TSX after deal inked - The Chronicle-Herald article by Brett Bundale, Business Reporter
    3. 13.3 Cuts to science affect environmental protection - The Guardian Guest Opinion
  14. 14 February 15, 2014
    1. 14.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 14.2 Thirsty producers always want more - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 14.3 No decision has been made on deep-well irrigation: Sherry - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
  15. 15 February 14, 2014
    1. 15.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  16. 16 February 13, 2014
    1. 16.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 16.2 More pressure on environment - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  17. 17 February 12, 2014
    1. 17.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 17.2 Questions remain on deep-water wells - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  18. 18 February 11, 2014
    1. 18.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  19. 19 February 10, 2014
    1. 19.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 19.2 Allowing hydraulic fracturing in New Brunswick solves nothing - The Guardian Commentary by David A. McGregor, Stratford
    3. 19.3 Alewife makes ‘crystal clear’ commitment to destroy the environment - The Daily Glove Puppet.com
  20. 20 February 9, 2014
    1. 20.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 20.2 Minister should not give in to potato lobby - The Guardian Letter of the Day by Roger Gordon
    3. 20.3 Debate not needed on deep wells issue - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  21. 21 February 8, 2014
    1. 21.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 21.2 TOO FRACK OR NOT TO FRACK: THAT IS THE QUESTION - Rural Delivery magazine by Jack MacAndrew
  22. 22 February 7, 2014
    1. 22.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 22.2 Pave will wave so pave the wave - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  23. 23 February 6, 2014
    1. 23.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 23.2 Call for lobbyists to testify leads to fiery debate - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright
    3. 23.3 Using more water wonʼt help matters - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  24. 24 February 5, 2014
    1. 24.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 24.2 Industry reports of deep-water wells still "opinion, not science." - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Daryl Guignion and Ian MacQuarrie
    3. 24.3 Deep-water wells in province's hands - The Guardian article by Steve Sharratt
  25. 25 February 4, 2014
    1. 25.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 25.2 Rocky "Plan B" road only temporary, province says - The Guardian article by Ryan Ross
  26. 26 February 3, 2014
    1. 26.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  27. 27 February 2, 2014
    1. 27.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 27.2 Deep water well issue may go to public consultation - The Guardian article by Steve Sharratt
    3. 27.3 Canada must keep door-to-door postal delivery - The Guardian Guest Opinion By Herb Dickieson
  28. 28 February 1, 2014
    1. 28.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 28.2 No reason yet to trust industry - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

February 28, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

What an interesting 24 hours it has been!

The presentation from the Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water was well (ha) received at the Standing Committee yesterday, and it was great to see so many concerned Islanders in the guest section.

From Friday's Guardian (article below):

Compass from last night had a bit on the standing committee and on the forum Wednesday night, about 3:30 into the program:

Attached is the submission to the Committee.

The Standing Committee decided to extend its meeting hours to 1-5PM for Thursdays March 6th, 13th and 27th, to fit in the number of concerned groups.  If people are able and interested, they could consider attending other presentations.  Next Thursday the four groups presenting are the National Farmers Union, the Watershed Alliance, the Central Queens Wildlife Federation/West River Watershed Association, and Innovative Farms Groups, the last of which presented for lifting the moratorium at the Watershed Alliance workshop in November.

Alan Hicken, who was the chair of the Environment Minister's Environmental Advisory Council, writes about keeping the moratorium in yesterday's paper (also in full below):

[As an aside, I wrote to Mr. Hicken and the Environmental Environment Council (EAC) in spring of 2012 about Plan B's environmental concerns, including the shale pit that suddenly appeared; and weeks later I got a letter from the new chair Robert Davies saying the EAC didn't do any investigative work and they were looking forward to the EIA report on Plan B.]

And you may have noticed another "Lesson" from the P.E.I. Potato Board on the subject of high capacity wells in yesterday's Guardian on page A-5.  It reads so sweetly. (we'll try to get a scanned image if you haven't seen it)

Activists raise raise concern over deep-well irrigation to P.E.I. MLAs - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright

Guardian on-line on February 27, print edition Feb 28th, 2014

A coalition made up of 16 groups and over 200 individuals from across P.E.I. urged MLAs Thursday to keep the current moratorium on deep-well irrigation in place.

The newly formed Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water made an impassioned presentation Thursday to a provincial standing committee currently holding hearings on the issue of deep-water wells.

Coalition spokeswoman Catherine OʼBrien told the MLAs on the committee more extensive public consultation and review must take place Protection of P.E.I. Water make a case against before any move is made to allow more of lifing the moratorium on deep-well irrigation to these wells to be drilled.

“It is imperative that respect for protecting fresh water be at the forefront of these discussions,” OʼBrien said.
“P.E.I. is one of only a small number of placed entirely dependent upon groundwater, prompting the need for careful, diligent deliberations.”

Over 50 supporters and members of the coalition packed into the normally empty public gallery of the committee chamber to show their support.

The issue has sparked a heated public debate over water use in Prince Edward Island, and whether the province has enough groundwater to support industrial irrigation of potato crops.

The P.E.I. Potato Board and Cavendish Farms argue some Island farmers need access to more water in order to keep pace with competitors in the mid-western United States.

They also point to data compiled by the provincial Department of Environment showing P.E.I. has a high annual recharge rate and that increasing the use of groundwater for irrigation of crops would use only a fraction of available groundwater resources.

But the Coalition for the Protection of P.E.I. Water says this data is incomplete and should be peer-reviewed by scientists, experts and the public to ensure all relevant information has been included.

This was one of five recommendations presented to the standing committee Thursday.

The coalition also wants a comprehensive water policy developed for Prince Edward Island, suggesting perhaps a commission could be struck for this purpose.

It further wants government to determine and publish the full environmental, agricultural and environmental costs of lifting the deep-well ban.

“This is a time when we should be exercising particular care about the use and protection of our water,” OʼBrien said.

“We canʼt afford the risk of being wrong.”

Miʼkmaq Keptin John Joe Sark also shared his concerns over the effects the wells could have on P.E.I.ʼs water resources.

He said he would be the first to launch a court action should P.E.I.ʼs water be contaminated as a result of the wells.
“I strongly recommend that the moratorium on high-capacity, deep wells for potato field irrigation not be lifted until we are damn sure that these deep-water wells will not harm the quality of fresh water in this province,” Sark said.
The committee has a busy schedule of meetings planned on the issue as more and more individuals and groups continue to request the chance to lend their voice to the growing debate.

Next week, the National Farmers Union, the PEI Watershed Alliance, the Central Queens Branch of the P.E.I. Wildlife Federation and Innovative Farms Group will have their chance at the committee table.

Protecting P.E.I.'s groundwater is not debatable - The Guardian Commentary by Alan Hicken

Published February 27, 2014 

                                                                                                                             Photo by The Guardian
For almost six years, I volunteered on the P.E.I. Environmental Advisory Council (EAC). I always appreciated the many presentations made to the EAC by staff and experts from the Environment Department and other federal and provincial public servants.

My final two years on the EAC were as chair. My objectives were to be fair, objective and engage the EAC council to participate objectively in debate on the many issues that concerned the environment on P.E.I.

Finally, we respectfully advised the P.E.I. ministers of environment in accordance of the terms of reference for the EAC. When I began volunteering the EAC had just released the report “Upstream Downstream” and unfortunately many of the reportʼs recommendations still have not been dealt with.

I believe our greatest work was our foundation document on a Conservation Strategy for P.E.I. Retired judge Ralph Thompsonʼs report, Commission on Land and Local Governance, gave the EAC the direction in his second recommendation to create a Conservation Strategy for P.E.I.

Our objective was to develop a discussion paper towards such a strategy. This document was finished just as the Plan B protests began and public meetings on a P.E.I. conservation strategy were stalled. We had begun a broad, open conservation strategy to protect P.E.I.ʼs natural capital, including our groundwater. This must include all the stakeholders which rely on P.E.I.ʼs ground water. Every Islander, scientists, industry representatives and all levels of government need to be at the table. An adequate supply of quality water is our life.

The issue of fracking, deep wells and the seriousness of protecting our ground water need to be addressed. Recent public comments on deep wells have caused me, and many others, great concern.

“Protecting our ground water is not debatable” was Environment Minister Janice Sherryʼs first comments to me as chair of the EAC. How times have changed after watching the recent CBC interview where Minister Sherry said the “P.E.I. Potato Board will educate Islanders about deep wells.”

I am sorry but that is not acceptable for any environment minister to say. If she or any government were concerned then they would make public the data they have on all public wells to show the conservation and quality of the water. Bring the scientists, agronomists and the data forward, let their peers and all Islanders judge what quality of water we want to drink.

I have not spoken to any farmer yet who wants to pay for an expensive irrigation system they donʼt need, donʼt want and certainly none want to damage our ground water.

I havenʼt heard that producers will get any extra dollars for a hundred weight of potatoes produced with an irrigation system. I also donʼt expect Island taxpayers will want to pay for a subsidy scheme to pay for this equipment to sit in a field for all but one in 10 years.

During my six years on the EAC, we had the opportunity to bring in scientists and experts to explain many issues about the P.E.I. environment, including ground water.

One particularly graphical presentation was made by a provincial hydrologist, Mr. Yefang.

His research showed the levels of nitrates found in test wells deeper into P.E.I. wells over a 20-year period. This data was taken from an area of high irrigation and agricultural production. Surely this data was made available throughout the government. What else are they not telling us? Why wonʼt they release this presentation and other data? The public needs to see all of the science.

I encourage all scientists and agronomists to step up to the plate and make your data known. Protecting our environment is about our health, life and prosperity where we live today.

Alan Hicken of South Pinette is the former chairman of the P.E.I. Environmental Advisory Council.
(bold added by me)
As another aside, I am sorry the Plan B protests had to happen and it somehow is associated with the conservation strategy public meetings being stalled!

February 27, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

It was a packed room at the Rodd Charlottetown last night to hear Maude Barlow, Chair of the Council of Canadians, and Reg Phalen, organic farmer and member of the National Farmers' Union, John Joe Sark, and biologist Daryl Guignion speak.  CBC reported 200 but it was actually closer to 300.

Maritime News from last night:
about 5:45 into the broadcast.

Earlier in the day, Maude spoke with the media about the issue of high capacity wells and the formation of the Coalition:
4:45 into the broadcast

Keptin John Joe Sark spoke first about the importance of water and presented an eagle feather to both Maude and to Leo Broderick.  Reg and Daryl each spoke after that (I can summarize their thoughts another day soon).

The author of several books, including the most recent Blue Future, Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever, Maude has seen water issues in many parts of the world.  She talked about the "myth of abundance" and that "lifting the moratorium would be the worst thing that could happen to PEI."

She said this is a "watershed moment" that can lead to a province-wide Water Act, based on a "water ethic":
 (reporting errors are my own):
1) Water is a human right -- there is an obligation to prevent third party destruction of water sources.
2) Water is a public trust, with a "hierarchy of use" being made, and government as the trustee ("Don't laugh," she said.  "It is working in other parts of the world.")
3) Water has rights, too -- important to keep the Precautionary Principle in mind (basically, if it could cause harm, don't do it)
4) Water can teach us how to live together.  Like other scarce resources, it can be the source of conflict, violence, war, but also turned into water being a peacemaker (she gave examples).

At the end of a long but very pleasant day, Maude Barlow, Leo Cheverie and Cindy Richards, February 26, 2014.

A huge wave of appreciation to Leo Broderick, vice chair of the Council of Canadians, who along with many volunteers made the day's events happen.

And what can people do now?:
  • attend, if you can, the Standing Committee meeting today where the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water will present its submission calling for the moratorium to stay in place. 1:30PM (the Coalition is presenting after a committee welcome and a greeting by Keptin John Joe Sark, so probably between 1:50 and 2:30PM).  Coles Building, Richmond Street, next to Province House.
  • write a letter to your MLA List is here:  http://assembly.pe.ca/index.php3?number=1024555&lang=E
  • and send it to the papers:
            The Guardian  letters@theguardian.pe.ca
            The Eastern (and West Prince)Graphic  editor@peicanada.com
            The Journal-Pioneer

February 26, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Regarding water issues and especially the high capacity wells, there are three events happening in the next two days that you are most welcome to attend:

  • the first is a press conference with Maude Barlow, the Council of Canadians, and the Coalition today, Wednesday, February 26th, at 11AM, at the Rodd Charlottetown (Provinces Room).  Corner of Kent and Pownal in Charlottetown.  There will be people there from many of the groups on the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water. Boyd Allen will be representing the Coalition (see statement, below), and Cindy Richards on behalf of the Citizens' Alliance.
  • Maude Barlow (Council of Canadians Chair, and author of many books), biologist Daryl Guignion and organic farmer Reg Phalen are part of a forum on water issues tonight, 7PM, Rodd Charlottetown. It's co-sponsored by the Council of Canadians and the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water, and emceed by Catherine O'Brien.  Definitely be a great public event you can tell others about, if they don't know about it already.  https://www.facebook.com/events/394497057360643/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming
  • Thursday afternoon (1:30PM) is a government standing committee meeting, where the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water will be presenting a submission. Catherine O'Brien and Boyd Allen will be representing the Coalition.  **People in the Gallery (the seating at one side of the room) really make an impact on the Committee as far as gauging public interest**, if you can be there at all, even for ten or 15 minutes.  It is in the Pope Room of the Coles Building. The Coles Building is the pretty old block building to the other side of Province House (Confed Centre on the other side).  You go up the stairs to the main floor and check in with a concierge, and go down the hall to the Pope Room, where there are chairs for the "gallery" (spectators).  We will likely be speaking at about 1:45-2PM or so for a half hour or so. (People can come and go as their schedules allow.)

And, if you live in the Brackley area, tonight is the public meeting with Minister Vessey about plans to move the "government garage" from Riverside Drive by the Civic Centre and the Wendy's/Tim's to a piece of land that was a 100-acre farm just outside Charlottetown city limits on Route 15.  If you want to decide for yourself if this is a good use of government money and farmland, I believe it is at the Brackley Community Centre tonight.

Have a great day, and hope you can come out to any or all of these events!

Members of the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water to-date include (and I am sure I am missing some):

Citizens’ Alliance of PEI

Cooper Institute

Council of Canadians

Don’t Frack PEI

Environmental Coalition of PEI

Green Party PEI

National Farmers Union, District 1, Region 1

New Democratic Party of PEI

PEI Watershed Alliance

Pesticide Free PEI

Save Our Seas and Shores

Sierra Club PEI

Winter River – Tracadie Bay Watershed Association

individual members

And the statement that will be read by Boyd Allen today at the press conference from the Coalition (with thanks for sharing that):

By mid-January, 2014, PEI residents had some time to examine the proposal to lift the moratorium on high capacity irrigation wells brought forward to Government by the processing industry and the PEI Potato Board. This became the catalyst for a groundswell of thoughtful and informed opinions which flooded an array of media across the island.

The Citizens' Alliance of PEI sent out invitations island-wide to engage people and organizations to meet and address this issue. From this, and subsequent meetings, The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water emerged. Our organization is composed of concerned citizens and includes The Citizens' Alliance of PEI, the PEI Watershed Alliance, Pesticide PEI, District 1, Region 1 of the National Farmers Union, Green Party of PEI, Environmental Coalition of PEI, Don’t Frack PEI, Cooper Institute, Several Watershed Groups, Council of Canadians, New Democratic Party of PEI, Sierra Club PEI, Save Our Seas and Shores. Among the coalition members are a number of physical, natural, and social scientists. The aim of this community-based organization is to share resources, skills and time to offer an informed, unified public voice in a process in which this voice traditionally has limited access.

The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water strongly opposes any lifting of the moratorium on new high capacity irrigation wells.

We feel that the monitoring and enforcement component attached to the existing high capacity wells is inadequate.

We feel that the data compiled to support the lifting of the moratorium is incomplete.

We recommend an opportunity for peer review of the water extraction policy, the data and the models used to support it.

We recommend the establishment and funding of a transparent, inclusive public consultation process to examine all aspects of this policy.

We recommend the establishment of a multi-disciplinary commission to develop a comprehensive, integrated water policy for PEI.

The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water will be presenting our position on maintaining the moratorium on high capacity wells to the standing Committee of Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry 1:30 pm tomorrow, Thursday 26 February at the Coles Building.

February 25, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some updates:

On Democratic Reform:
The Federal Liberals held their policy convention last weekend in Montreal, and one of the resolutions (among many!) passed was Resolution 31, the very last part of which opens the door to some sort of proportional representation.
At least, if elected, they will explore options and report back within 12 months.  I think this means all the major federal parties save one (!) recognize that our current electoral systems need improvement.

and on environmental issues:

From Don't Frack PEI website news http://dontfrackpei.com/web/ :

Help save Anticosti Island
It looks like Anticosti Island in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence will be opened up for fracking. There is an Avaaz petition, with 34,000 signatures, asking the Quebec government to reconsider. If you’d like to sign the petition, it can be found at

 (It's in French but the content is easy to understand.)

Suzuki – Trading water for fuel is fracking crazy

"It would be difficult to live without oil and gas. But it would be impossible to live without water. Yet, in our mad rush to extract and sell every drop of gas and oil as quickly as possible, we’re trading precious water for fossil fuels." More here:

February 24, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Not at all related to Plan B, but good words, from one of the most honest, caring elder this Island claims:

Chan deserves better treatment -The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on February 20, 2014

Iʼm looking at the front page of Saturday (February 15th)ʼs Guardian of photo of Patrick Chan with headline “Look out!” showing him falling. Then I turn to page B5 and beneath headline is written “Canadian skater puts in disappointing performance in free skate.” Further down the column heʼs apologizing “I love you guys. Iʼm sorry.” The reaction by people who follow figure skating shows clearly what a shallow critical society we have become.

I think that to win a silver medal at Olympics is a tremendous accomplishment. The pressure thatʼs being put on these athletes by the public is beyond what is reasonable because they put so much pressure on themselves. Patrick Chan has nothing to apologize for. Heʼs a fine athlete, an outstanding skater. I went to his website and sent him an e-mail to tell him not to give up his dream.

Heather Moyse did win gold, and she can be very proud of herself for everything sheʼs accomplished, and most important of all, what a great role model she is for young people.

I think that photo of Patrick Chan with his silver medal should have been on the front page, not one of him falling. For any athlete to make it to Olympics is an amazing accomplishment, even if they donʼt win a medal.

Janet Gordon Gaudet, St. Catherines

More about related to calculating "recharge of aquifiers", using swimming pools as a visible analogy.

Leave pools out of water debate - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on February 20, 2014

Like most regular readers, I have been following with interest, the numerous articles and letters in The Guardian on the issue of deep-water wells. In the headline article of Fridayʼs (February 14) paper, “ No decision made on deep-water wells: Sherry,” there was an assertion attributed to Mr. Bruce Raymond (manager of watershed and subdivision planning for the province), that is worthy of pause and re-examination. Mr. Raymond is quoted, saying, that the rate at which P.E.Iʼs groundwater is replenished every year is “equal to 154 Olympic-sized swimming pools for every square inch of the Island”.

According to Wikipedia, an Olympic-sized swimming pool contains 2.5 million litres of water, with a volume of 88,0000 cubic feet. It is easy to determine that one cubic foot of water would be 144 feet in height on a single square inch of P.E.I. soil. It follows that 88,000 cubic feet would be 2,400 miles high! That is for a single Olympic-sized swimming pool. For 154 pools, this tower of water would reach an amazing 369,600 miles in height, which is 1.5 times further away than the moon. Hmm. That would be one wicked replenishment rate.

According to Island information, however, “the average yearly rainfall is 1125.8 mm and the average yearly snowfall is 318.2 mm” on Prince Edward Island. That translates to approximately 1.5 meters (or 5 feet) of precipitation per year.

Comparing 369,600 miles to 5 feet, we can determine that the Olympic-sized pool reference is out by a factor in excess of 390 million. Clearly, either Mr. Raymond was misunderstood or he misinterpreted the data. Either way, it seems clear — it would be better to simply disregard any future reference to swimming pools.

Mel Gallant, Charlottetown

at least until the Summer Olympics.

February 23, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Odds and Ends:

On the last day of the 2014 Olympics:
    the Gold Medal for Best Moguls Course goes to.....Plan B!!!

(Another mogul course:

A reason for the bumps, perhaps:

Photo of future road bed of Plan B taken October 17, 2013, near the old TCH.  Traffic was driving on it two weeks later.

from Wikipedia -- good advice:
"Skiers (Drivers) absorb the impact of the bumps by bending at the knees and hips. In a good run, shoulders remain parallel to the finish line, turns should be quick and short, and skis (tires) should not leave the snow (road) surface."

If I have sent this around before, it is worth a second read:

Processors benefit from more potatoes - The Guardian Letter to the Editor 

Published on February 07, 2014

I am puzzled by the P.E.I. Potato Boardʼs request to lift the moratorium on deep-water wells. Their main argument seems to be that they need more water to increase potato production and become more competitive. I recall a concerted effort on P.E.I. to decrease the acreage of potatoes in an effort to increase prices.

As recently as last fall, American production was down six per cent, a reduction the president of the United Potato Growers of America said was needed to balance the market. So, it seems lower production equals higher prices, and higher prices benefit growers.

This makes me wonder who stands to benefit from higher production and, presumably, lower prices. The answer would seem to be those who buy potatoes - the processors — rather than those who grow them.

Shannon Mader, Charlottetown

and a bit of irony:

Exxon CEO Joins Lawsuit Against Fracking Project Because It Will Devalue His $5 Million Property - By Rebecca Leber

As ExxonMobil’s CEO, it’s Rex Tillerson’s job to promote the hydraulic fracturing enabling the recent oil and gas boom, and fight regulatory oversight. The oil company is the biggest natural gas producer in the U.S., relying on the controversial drilling technology to extract it.

The exception is when Tillerson’s $5 million property value might be harmed. Tillerson has joined a lawsuit that cites fracking’s consequences in order to block the construction of a 160-foot water tower next to his and his wife’s Texas home.

The Wall Street Journal reports the tower would supply water to a nearby fracking site, and the plaintiffs argue the project would cause too much noise and traffic from hauling the water from the tower to the drilling site. The water tower, owned by Cross Timbers Water Supply Corporation, “will sell water to oil and gas explorers for fracing [sic] shale formations leading to traffic with heavy trucks on FM 407, creating a noise nuisance and traffic hazards,” the suit says.

Though Tillerson’s name is on the lawsuit, a lawyer representing him said his concern is about the devaluation of his property, not fracking specifically.

When he is acting as Exxon CEO, not a homeowner, Tillerson has lashed out at fracking critics and proponents of regulation. “This type of dysfunctional regulation is holding back the American economic recovery, growth and global competitiveness,” he said in 2012. Natural gas production “is an old technology just being applied, integrated with some new technologies,” he said in another interview. “So the risks are very manageable.”

In shale regions, less wealthy residents have protested fracking development for impacts more consequential than noise, including water contamination and cancer risk. Exxon’s oil and gas operations and the resulting spills not only sinks property values, but the spills have leveled homes and destroyed regions.

Exxon, which pays Tillerson a total $40.3 million, is staying out of the legal tangle. A company spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal it “has no involvement in the legal matter.”

February 22, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Despite the imperative headline given to it (it was different in the peicanada.com website as "Deep water wells risk turning ocean into salt water desert"), it is an interesting letter to contemplate:

Man should not drill into aquifer - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on February 20, 2014 in

On the basis of groundwater, the sandstone of P.E.I. is considered to be composed of two zones: an upper zone, highly fractured having significant near-vertical fracturing and a lower zone, below about 35 metres, much less fractured and having few near-vertical fractures. Below the first aquitard layer the lower zone is known as the confined aquifer. An aquitard is a material like claystone and siltstone that has low permeability but transmits water at low flow rates.

The water flow in the confined aquifer is referred to as the ʻdeeper circulationʼ and is on a regional scale and not restricted to watersheds. Once the confined aquifer enters under the ocean it is called the confined submarine groundwater discharge (CSGD) aquifer. This deeper circulation through the CSGD affects directly the productivity of the ocean and has been and is being impacted in P.E.I. by human activities of the surface.

The proper jurisdiction of the confined aquifer should be the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The CSGD aquifer is driven by the deeper circulation of the confined aquifer on land, gravity in the end. Man should not be drilling into the confined aquifer on land and withdrawing its water. Municipal wells are not excluded. The deep water wells that have been drilled are removing water from the deep circulation and are reducing the productivity of the fisheries. We are killing the ocean. Existing deep water wells should be sealed off at where they puncture the confined aquifer. The confined aquifer should be sealed off and truly deep geological exploration wells should have casings to 300 meters at least.

We should thank the persons who had the wisdom to place a moratorium on deep water drilling in 2003. We must restore the deeper circulation; otherwise, we run the risk of turning the ocean into a saltwater desert.

Tony Lloyd, Mount Stewart

February 21, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Events coming up this week and beyond, a bit inconsistently reported:

The Bonshaw monthly ceilidh is this Sunday afternoon (2-4PM) at the Bonshaw Hall, right off a certain highway.
https://www.facebook.com/events/1377258265874379/  Admission is by donation, and this month it goes to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

This Sunday (February 23rd) is a lecture on the "Vinland Map", by Richard Raiswell, sponsored by The Vinland Society.
7:30PM, Irish Historical Society (BIS Hall), North River Road, Charlottetown.

Next Wednesday (February 26th), 7PM, is a forum on Water, with special guest Maude Barlow:

From the blog by Brent Patterson, on the Council of Canadians website, on the event and high capacity wells issue:

Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow will be speaking in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island on Wednesday February 26 on the future of deep water wells in that province. Along with Barlow, biologist Darryl Guignon and National Farmers Union representative Reg Phelan will speak. Keptein John Joe Sark will give the welcome and the event will be chaired by Catherine O'Brien of the Coalition for Protecting PEI's Water. It will take place at the Rodd Charlottetown Hotel on Kent Street starting at 7 pm.

The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water will be presenting to the Standing Committee of Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry the next afternoon, Thursday, February 27th, some time during the meeting, which runs from 1:30PM to a bit after 3PM.  It would be great if you could be there in the public gallery to support Catherine and the rest of the Coalition.  It is in the Coles Building, which is next to Province House further down Richmond Street.

(Very interesting is that on the radio news story, the reason Cavendish Farms has justified the recent layoffs of people at their plant is overproduction of potatoes in North America.)

February 20, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

In yesterday's Guardian, there was a syndicated article titled "N.B. seeking Atlantic Accord for unexplored offshore".  It's not on the Guardian website, but I found it in several places on the web:


The web versions had three paragraphs more that The Guardian presumably had space for.  I have the link and pasted the full article below.

N.B. is hitching its financial future on revenues from any type of fossil fuel production it can persuade companies to come find.

A longish article, USA focused, but interesting:

New Brunswick seeks Atlantic Accord of its own for unexplored offshore - The Canadian Press by Kevin Bissett

FREDERICTON - The government of New Brunswick is seeking an Atlantic Accord of its own as it looks offshore to reverse its economic decline.

The province's Progressive Conservative government has set its sights on natural resources with the hope that oil and gas can pump some revenues into its coffers.

While the government has been focused on developing a shale gas industry, it has recently turned its attention to its largely unexplored offshore fields. Premier David Alward told a business audience three weeks ago that talks to draft an offshore accord have begun with the federal government in order to ensure New Brunswick can reap the benefits of any future development.

It's not known whether there is a commercially viable reservoir of oil or gas under New Brunswick's 2.3-million hectare offshore. Some seismic exploration work was done from the 1960s into the early 1980s, but that's as far as it went.

But that hasn't stifled the provincial government's enthusiasm.

"There's potential there," Energy Minister Craig Leonard said in an interview.

"When you look around and see what has taken place in the offshores of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Quebec, we're not that far away from those locations that work is being done. So you would think that there might be some potential there."

Leonard said new technology will be applied to the existing data in an effort to get a clearer picture on potential petroleum resources.

Paul Barnes, Atlantic Canada manager for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said New Brunswick has plenty of groundwork ahead before it can arouse industry interest.

"More certainly needs to be done and packaged up and marketed to industry before I believe industry would consider doing work there," Barnes said.

"That area seems to have some prospectivity to it, but it's at the very early stages as to whether there's enough interest for companies to do any activity."

The Atlantic Accord has been pivotal to Newfoundland and Labrador's economic turnaround. The agreement allows that province and Nova Scotia to tax offshore resources as though they are the owner, even though that falls to the federal government.

The deal also shelters those provinces from offshore resource revenue clawbacks in equalization, though Newfoundland and Labrador stopped receiving payments from the federal wealth-sharing program in 2008.

The agreement has funnelled more than $5 billion to Newfoundland and Labrador and about $1.1 billion to Nova Scotia.

"Newfoundland's economy is doing extremely well because of their offshore agreements and Nova Scotia is starting to come into that area as well," Leonard said.

Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore industry dwarves Nova Scotia's, boasting the Hibernia, White Rose and Terra Nova offshore oil platforms. The Hebron offshore project is in development and aiming to come online in 2017.

But Nova Scotia has seen the Deep Panuke natural gas project come on stream last year and two major exploration projects could be on the horizon. Shell Canada (TSX:SHC) completed 3D seismic imaging off the province's southwestern shore last year and could begin exploratory oil drilling late next year. BP plans to acquire seismic data this year and next about 300 kilometres southeast of Halifax.

Wade Locke, a professor of economics at Memorial University in Newfoundland, said an offshore accord is also important because it can remove uncertainty that could block development or cause arguments over ownership and revenue allocation.

"Without that, you will lose half of your money in equalization now and you will also not have the ability to strongly suggest to people that they should be doing economic development with local New Brunswick companies," Locke said.

Have yet another nice snowy day

February 19, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some information on yet another issue affecting farming: when agriculture, emphasis on "culture", is being affected by agri-business, which sounds so trendy and organized, but is it in the best interest of people growing food for people? 

An article on CBC's website:
(The comments, as usual, are entertaining and a bit informational)

Farmers split on Agricultural Growth Act National: Farmers Union opposed to restrictions on seed use - CBC News website article

CBC News Posted: Feb 18, 2014 6:54 AM AT Last Updated: Feb 18, 2014 8:29 AM AT

Two major farmers' groups in Canada are split on whether restrictions on seed use in the federal government's Agricultural Growth Act are good or bad for farmers.

'You have to ask the question, who is this benefiting?'- Steven Mackinnon, National Farmers Union

Members of the National Farmers Union on P.E.I. are fighting against Bill C-18. They believe part of the bill will take away farmers rights to save, reuse, exchange and sell seeds.

"There is a lot of things in it that would either hinder or hamper farmers in the future from saving their own seed. Farmers and people around the world have been saving their own seed for 10,000 years. You have to ask the question, who is this benefiting?" said Steven Mackinnon, district director of the National Farmers Union on P.E.I.

"Also, if you leave it in the private, multinational corporations, the government will do a lot less public research on different seed varieties and etc. So there will be less and less varieties probably to choose from."

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture, however, takes a different view. It believes the bill will better align Canada with the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, and strikes a good balance between ensuring variety developers have the ability to see a return on investment for their plant breeding research efforts, while also preserving the right for farmers to save and condition seed for their own use.

Ottawa maintains the bill will encourage investment in plant breeding in Canada and improve accessibility to foreign seed varieties for farmers. It says farmers will have the right to save and clean or treat seed for replanting on their own land.

Other areas of the proposed legislative changes would make it easier for farmers and industry to meet government requirements, by reducing red tape and delivering programs more effectively, government representatives say.

NFU members on P.E.I. are holding a meeting Wednesday night in Cornwall to develop a strategy to defeat Bill C-18, or at the very least have changes made.

This notice was in the Island Farmer newspaper and on peicanada.com's website:
The National Farmers Union is holding a public meeting Thursday, February 19th to discuss the impact of Bill C-18 on the farmer’s right to save, reuse and exchange seed.  The bill, which is currently before the House of Commons, would move Canada to the "UPOV 91" standard. The NFU is strongly opposed to the bill and invites farmers to share their ideas on how to defeat the measure before it becomes law.  The meeting will be held at the Dutch Inn starting at 8 p.m. In the event of inclement weather, the meeting will be held the following day at the same time and location.

And what is UPOV? 

from: http://www.upov.int/portal/index.html.en

The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) is an intergovernmental organization with headquarters in Geneva (Switzerland).

UPOV was established by the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants. The Convention was adopted in Paris in 1961 and it was revised in 1972, 1978 and 1991.

UPOV's mission is to provide and promote an effective system of plant variety protection, with the aim of encouraging the development of new varieties of plants, for the benefit of society.

Have (another) great snow day

February 18, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

I had reason to be on Plan B last night while it was flurrying.  Of course I am biased, but it was bad -- poor visibility, very hard to see where you were on the road, lights or not, snow blowing up from the steep hillside over the road, etc.  It appears difficult to manage resources of salt and snowplowing effectively on such a wide road bed.

The snow was even one of those flurries that's usually not too bad on the highway.  Trees, homes, cats-eyes, and a sensibly-sized road used to be the markers.  Now it is just wide, snow-covered guard-rails marking the outline, and occasional blasts of streetlights showing more guardrails.

The bumpiness was kind of a good thing -- I knew I was still on Plan B.  As long as I stayed somewhere on the road, I would eventually get to the village of Bonshaw, where the road was fine.

Plan B may be Bumpy, but I am here to report that not all the asphalt laid in 2013 is problematic.  There is a beautiful section of pavement  in Elmwood along Route 9 in front of the District 17 MLA's house and property.  Smooth dark road surface, not bumpy at all.   There was a culvert that was likely repaired this summer, and now there is plenty of new pavement in both directions.

Plan B in December 2013, Churchill.

February 17, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Hope you will enjoy the different pace of things today as some people have an Islander Day vacation day.

Horace Carver titled his Lands Protection Act (LPA) review "The Gift of Jurisdiction", which was the title of one of the submissions to his commission, by Peter Bevan-Baker, who was quoting former Premier Angus MacLean, who may have been quoting Cornelius Howatt. ( I suspect I have the lineage messed up a bit.)   The point is, it is an evocative description.

(Aside:  I do plan to go over the LPA report in the near future.)

Local control of our affairs is something we do take for granted, and several thoughtful individuals have raised serious concerns about the "CETA" (Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) agreement and what it means for Canada and for PEI.  If you can pour yourself a cup of something warm and have a chance to contemplate this letter, please do:

(bolding and italic comments are mine)

CETA trade deal still shrouded in tight secrecy - The Guardian Commentary by Scott Sinclair

Published on February 12, 2014

After nearly five years of negotiations, the details of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) remain shrouded in secrecy. In October, Prime Minister Harper, eager to deflect attention from the Senate scandal, went to Brussels to announce an agreement-in-principle. Since then, federal ministers have fanned out across the country to proclaim the alleged benefits of the deal. Yet, months later, the text is still a closely guarded secret.

Last week in Ottawa the new EU ambassador to Canada, Marie-Anne Coninsx, confirmed that technical negotiations on the CETA are still underway and that the text may not be publicly released for another six months, or longer.  Nor has the P.E.I. provincial government publicly released its list of reservations - the exceptions that might shield key policies, such as P.E.I.ʼs non-resident land ownership policies, from challenge under the CETA.

By the time the federal and provincial governments provide the details, it could be too late for citizens to have a proper say or to correct mistakes.

There is no question that international trade is vital to the P.E.I. economy.  Trade between Europe and Canada is already very open. EU tariffs on Canadian products average just 2.2 per cent. In any case, tariffs and trade are only a small part of the treaty.
The CETA is a constitutional-style document that will hike provincial drug costs, erode supply management in the dairy industry and undermine the authority of provincial and local governments to boost local economic development.

Canada has caved in to EU demands to extend monopoly patent protection for brand-name pharmaceuticals by up to two years. This step will delay the introduction of cheaper, equally effective generic medicines, costing Canadians an estimated $800 million annually. This CETA provision is simply about transferring millions of dollars from consumers and taxpayers to already extremely profitable multinational drug companies. The increased costs to Islanders would be more than $3 million a year.

Corporate agriculture could also profit from the CETA. The EU has agreed to eliminate its 17 per cent tariff on frozen French fries, making it cheaper to ship to European markets (although as the recent layoffs at Cavendish Farms attest, there is already a glut of processing capacity worldwide.)
But, in return, Canada agreed to nearly double the quota of European cheese entering our country, seriously eroding the supply-managed system, which the federal and P.E.I. governments had pledged to defend. The influx of subsidized European cheese will harm local dairy farmers, cheese-makers and rural communities.

The CETA will also make it harder to support small-scale, local, organic alternatives. Encouraging public hospitals, nursing homes or other public institutions to give priority to locally grown produce in their food purchases will be banned by CETA.
(This news really disturbs me, as getting local Island food in local Island institutions is a key to encouraging local food to be more than a boutique choice.)

Similarly, as a condition for dropping its high tariffs on fish (averaging 11 per cent) the EU has insisted that Canada eliminate all restrictions on the export of unprocessed fish. P.E.I.ʼs inshore fishermen should also be aware that the CETAʼs investment rules are more intrusive than those in previous treaties. Fleet separation and owner-operator policies are considered illegal investment restrictions that must be exempted. While safe for now, these vital policies will be targets for elimination in future trade negotiations.

In the past, P.E.I. has shown good sense by linking wind energy development to creating local benefits. Unless the province takes ironclad reservations, such policies will be prohibited under the CETA. The agreement protects foreign investors from obligations to provide benefits to the community whose resources they are exploiting.

The CETA also includes an investor-state dispute mechanism, which gives unaccountable tribunals the power to order governments to compensate foreign investors allegedly harmed by public policies or regulations. Policies aimed at protecting the Islandʼs water supply, preserving coastal or environmentally sensitive areas, and moratoriums on fracking or offshore oil exploration could all be targets for investor challenges under this appallingly anti-democratic process.

P.E.I.ʼs best leaders have always stood up against outside trends that threatened to erode Islandersʼ control over their own destiny. Governments led by Angus MacLean, who championed rural renaissance, and Joe Ghiz, who opposed the Canada-U.S. FTA and NAFTA, instinctively recognized the need for action.
Our current provincial leaders need to find the backbone to ensure that self-government and the ability of communities and working people to gain a greater share of the economic pie are not sacrificed on the altar of a reckless free trade agenda.

Scott Sinclair is director of the Trade and Investment Research Project with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. He lives in Georgetown Royalty.

If you want a reminder of what the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is, here is their website and a Wikipedia article:

February 16, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

There was to be an interesting illustrated talk about "The Vinland Map" by Dr. Richard Raiswell at the Irish Cultural Centre tonight, sponsored by The Vinland Society --**it has been postponed for one week until Sunday, February 23rd, 7PM.  More details later this week.

A keen-eyed watcher sent this article to me.  It left me punch-drunk:

Corridor soars on TSX after deal inked - The Chronicle-Herald article by Brett Bundale, Business Reporter

Published February 14, 2014

Corridor Resources Inc. was one of the top gainers on the TSX Friday following its $100-million joint venture deal to develop oil and gas on Anticosti Island, Que.  The Halifax junior resource firmʼs stocks soared over 23 per cent or 40 cents to close at $2.12 Friday, after hitting a 52-week low of 60 cents last spring.  Macquarie Research analyst David Popowich said that if the exploration plans pan out, Corridor could be a $5 to $10 stock. “The company has some interesting blue-sky potential,” he said in an interview Friday. “But thereʼs still a lot of risk associated with this play.” Corridor has signed a letter of intent with the Quebec government, junior resource firm Petrolia Inc. of Rimouski, Que., and French mid-tiered oil outfit Etablissements Maurel & Prom S.A. Quebec will have a 35 per cent stake in the partnership, while Corridor, Petrolia and Maurel & Prom will each have a 21.67 per cent interest.

The joint venture will explore Anticosti Islandʼs Macasty formation, the lateral equivalent of the Utica formation in eastern Ohio.
The resource has an estimated 35 billion barrels of oil, although, if successful, only five to 10 per cent could be extracted.
The shale deposit is in the “liquids window,” which means itʼs expected to yield a mixture of gas and liquids, including oil, condensate and butane.  Corridor president and chief executive Phillip Knoll said the wells on the Gulf of St. Lawrence island would need to be hydraulically fractured. 

“These formations absolutely have to be fracture stimulated,” he said in an interview, referring to a technique used by the oil and gas industry to stimulate a well by injecting a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals deep underground.
The Quebec government has banned fracking in the St. Lawrence River Valley and a moratorium is in place in the rest of the province.
However, given Quebecʼs majority position in the exploration partnership, it appears the moratorium could be lifted to develop resources on Anticosti Island.

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois has voiced conditional support for oil exploration in the province. She has cited both Anticosti Isla and Old Harry, which Corridor holds a 100 per cent stake in, as key exploration opportunities subject to environmental impact assessments. (Old Harry is a geological structure located in an undersea area in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.)

“The government has been very clear, that even within this moratorium, they want to undertake a small program to fully evaluate how it all works,” Knoll said. “They recognize itʼs about science and that is the important thing. If you undertake it properly, you can mitigate environmental impacts.”  Knoll has been critical of fracking opponents, who say that the method can contaminate groundwater, pollute the air and industrial landscapes.   “The government of Quebec wisely wants to own some of their resource potential and this is a way for them to do it,” Knoll said. “How, in the Maritimes, are we going to pay for our programs if we donʼt develop our economy?”

Nova Scotia commissioned an independent review of hydraulic fracturing last year. Meetings and public consultations are expecte to wrap up this spring. The review panel will then issue recommendations, which the provincial government is expected to adopt.
Popowich said itʼs not very common for governments to partner with the private sector to develop oil and gas. However, he said itʼs positive development for Corridor.
“You couldnʼt have a better endorsement than the province of Quebec,” Popowich said. “The fact that they are committing to participating in Anticosti exploration is a big positive because it says that this project is going ahead.”

Although the Macasty formation holds significant potential, he noted that itʼs still risky.  “Itʼs definitely a big resource,” Popowich said. “Even if only a small part of it turns out to be commercial, itʼs not difficult to get to some pretty big numbers here.
“The issue really is unconventional oil can be a very tricky business; there are a lot of different things that could go right or wrong.”
While Anticosti is likely the most remote unconventional oil play in North America, Popowich said it could be an ideal location to shi oil from.  “One of the big themes in energy right now is that there is too much light oil in the continental United States and Canada, so if Corridor produces it, they can literally put it on a boat and ship it anywhere in the world.”

And some sobering Sunday reading:

Cuts to science affect environmental protection - The Guardian Guest Opinion

Published on February 11, 2014

Cuts to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) reduce Canadaʼs ability to do science and our ability to protect the natural world.

Seven DFO libraries, including the Eric Marshall Library of the Freshwater Institute at the University of Manitoba and the St. Andrews Biological Station in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, are being closed down.

Burt Ayles, former regional director for freshwater, described the Marshall library as “world class” and “the best in Canada.”
The government is also closing Environment Canada libraries from Calgary to New Brunswick.

Gail Shea, Minister of DFO, claims that closing libraries is value for taxpayers, yet the St. Andrews Station is brand new, and cost several million taxpayer dollars.

Minister Shea has also said that research is now done on-line. However, Dr. Peter Wells, of the International Ocean Institute at Dalhousie University states that much of the DFO library material was never available digitally.

The holdings of the shuttered libraries go back decades, and provide baseline data upon which to record and evaluate changes brought about by the introduction of chemicals, invasive species and long term processes, like climate change and the acidification of the oceans.

DFO has defunded world-class research laboratories, including the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), the only whole-lake freshwater lab of its kind in the world; the marine contaminants program, led by Dr. Peter Ross, who revealed PCB contamination of killer whales; and the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Lab (PEARL), the furthest northern arctic research lab in the world.

These programs, said Dr. Ross, allow us to keep “our finger on the pulse of whatʼs happening” in the natural world and enable scientists to advise governments on how to maintain vibrant economies and minimize hazards to human health and to the health of the land, fish and animals.

These labs are living libraries, for taking samples, recording and creating data available now and to future generations of scientists from across the world.

About the threat to close ELA, Israeli oceanographers and lake scientists said, that the government “is stamping out the ability of the world scientific community to conduct the research required to formulate sound environmental policies.”

They are right. Protecting the natural world requires a global, co-operative effort. Canada has the scientists, the labs and a track record of global contributions. Let us continue to fund science and create real value for Canadians.

Peter King, Kenora, ON
Jim Johnson, Keewatin, ON
Dave Schwartz, Kenora, ON

February 15, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Yesterday's Guardian story on the Standing Committee meeting with Minister Sherry:
http://www.theguardian.pe.ca/News/Local/2014-02-14/article-3615107/No-decision-has-been-made-on-deep-well-irrigation%3A-Sherry/1  (full text at end)

It contains an unfortunate error in that the oft-quoted "154 Olympic swimming pools of water is the recharge rate" is listed for a square inch, not kilometre. If it were inch, then perhaps we could support dozens and dozens and dozens of wells, or be waterlogged like poor Great Britain. 

I believe, quoting Mr. Raymond another time, it is:

"An Olympic size pool holds 2,500 cubic meters.  The average annual recharge to groundwater on PEI for a square kilometer is ~385,000 cubic meters each year. 385,000 / 2,500 = 154 pools".

Note that the figure quoted is an average for the entire Island.  I am not sure how extensively they measured across the island to be so absolutely confident of that average.  But taking that number, one can divide the amount by the area to get the total depth that represents and it is 38 cm (or a little over a foot) of "recharge" over any particular point of land over the course of a year. (I think)

CBC has a poll on their website:
"Should the moratorium on deep-water irrigation wells be lifted?"   You can participate here (it is in the middle of the article):

A letter from yesterday:

Thirsty producers always want more - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on February 14, 2014 in

Potato producers wish to drain the water on P.E.I. They are thirsty with greed with no respect for the residents who expect to live off the ground water we already have.

They are selfish.

Their own desire for wealth must come first. They are not satisfied with the rain the good Lord sends. That proves their attitude.
No doubt they are in the minority on P.E.I. I am sure most growers using common sense are satisfied. No one can change the weather patterns. Our water is too important to fool with.

Brendon Flood, South Melville

and the lead article from yesterday, with a few things in bold by me:

No decision has been made on deep-well irrigation: Sherry - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright

Published on February 14th, 2014

Environment Minister Janice Sherry, centre, spoke to a committee of MLAs on the issue of deep-well irrigation Thursday. Joining her were the provincial director of environment Jim Young, left, and Bruce Raymond, right, manager of watershed planning for the province.

Environment Minister Janice Sherry says government has made no decisions on deep-well irrigation and the moratorium will not be lifted unless itʼs proven it will not diminish the quantity or quality of P.E.I.ʼs groundwater.

Sherry was in the hot seat Tuesday at a meeting of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry.
She said the question of whether to lift the current moratorium on deep-water wells for irrigation has become a leading issue and that she has received a lot of impassioned feedback from Islanders.
She said she welcomes a “lively debate.”

“As a government, we are listening to what Islanders have to say on this issue. We are listening to what the agricultural industry is telling us,” she said.  “You will hear that we have more than enough water to meet our needs. However, that supply must be carefully monitored and managed, That is the issue when it comes to issuing permits for high-capacity wells.”

The issue has become a topic of heated debate, especially after industry giant Cavendish Farms and the P.E.I. Potato Board mounted a full-scale lobby effort several weeks ago. They are pushing for access to deep-water wells to supply potato fields with water for supplemental irrigation.

But environmental groups are raising serious concern over the impacts large-scale agricultural irrigation could have on P.E.I.ʼs groundwater levels. They also worry about potential nitrate contamination.

The committee meeting Thursday saw a packed crowd of concerned Islanders in attendance — a rare occurrence for the normally empty public gallery of the committee chamber.  A technical briefing was presented about how P.E.I.ʼs groundwater is managed and scientific data about recharge rates, compiled by the Environment Department.  Bruce Raymond, manager of watershed and subdivision planning for the province, said provincial data shows the rate at which P.E.I.ʼs groundwater is replenished every year is quite high.

This recharge rate is equal to 154 Olympic-sized swimming pools for every square inch of the Island, he told the committee.
Raymond also said only seven per cent of water available for extraction within environmental regulations is being used.

But when the time for questions came, Opposition MLAs were mainly interested in the politics of the issue.
Opposition Leader Steven Myers asked Sherry who first suggested the moratorium be lifted.
She said the request came from the potato board. “Whatʼs been told to me by many, many people, too many to think itʼs not true, is that

government went to the potato board and said, ʻHey you should ask for this because weʼll probably give it to youʼ,” Myers said.
“Absolutely not,” Sherry replied.

Agriculture Critic Colin LaVie questioned Sherry on the involvement of the premierʼs former chief of staff, Chris LeClair, and former Liberal MLA Cynthia King. The two were hired to help the potato board lobby in favour of deep-water wells.
He asked whether the Environment Department paid them.
Sherry firmly denied this, saying Cavendish Farms hired LeClair and King to educate people** about high-capacity wells.

“I donʼt have a role to play in that, thatʼs totally a private business hiring someone to provide a service for them. Thatʼs got nothing to do with government,” Sherry said.

“When you talk about educate, is this process already done?” LaVie asked.

Sherry stressed that nothing has gone before cabinet on this issue and that all opinions and data are continuing to be assessed.
“We need informed discussions. We need facts. We need science. We need to build a consensus around this issue and I can assure the members of this committee that the views of all Islanders will be taken into account before a decision is made.”

twright@theguardian.pe.ca Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

**I guess the MLAs getting private meetings are the ones who are getting educated?

February 14, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Regarding the government's acknowledgement of concerns about high capacity wells:

The Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry met yesterday for the first of several meetings to hear about this issue.  Their first guests were the Environment Minister and two of her staff, the division of Environment chief Jim Young, and the person in charge of Watershed and Subdivision Planning, Bruce Raymond, who it appears presented some of the powerpoint presentation he gave to the Federation of Agriculture a couple of weeks ago (and is found here:  Water Extraction Policy and Background  http://www.gov.pe.ca/environment/water-extraction  )

From Compass, last night, 4:15 into the program:
Minister Sherry says the agriculture industry needs to explain why they want the water.  (This seems obvious to most of us.)
She says her department would not lift the moratorium if they thought it would be detrimental to the quantity and quality of water, or if it would have negative impacts on aquatic habitats.  "Certainly we don't have all the science in the area."

A tip of the hat to Committee Chairperson Paula Biggar being interested in this issue and making time for it and the groups that want to address it.  The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water, made up of representatives of many Island Groups, will be presenting at the next meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday, February 27th, 1:30PM, if you want to attend that day.

Minister Sherry has been responding to most e-mails sent to her by Islanders and groups with concerns on the subject with this exact response (bolding mine):
(To the writer:)
Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding water extraction and high capacity wells.

Islanders’ opinions on this issue are important and I appreciate your taking the time to contact me. PEI's water resources are very valuable and I believe that we must protect them, ensuring that the environment is sustainable.

Government has not made a decision regarding high capacity wells for agricultural irrigation and any decision made will be science-based, ensuring the protection of our drinking and surface water resources and aquatic habitat.

Again, thank you for your letter of concern which, along with others, will be considered prior to government making any decision on this issue.
(Minster Sherry)

I am not quite sure I understand exactly what the bolded line means as far as what government is thinking at this point.

Also, in the same Compass program, 18:30 into it, is a story about the new Thursday and Friday noontime (I think)  Farmers' Market upstairs at the Confederation Court Mall in Charlottetown. 

Have a great Friday and Valentine's Day, and get some sweet local food today or tomorrow if you can,

PS  Yes, with the rain we'll have to check the Plan B areas today for run-off.  If you are in the area and see anything, let us know.

February 13, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Today is the first Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry regarding the high capacity well issue.
1:30PM,  Coles Building (Pope Room).  Coles is the red brick building to the east of Province House; the doorway is off Richmond Street, the steps going up to the main floor.  There are seats for the public in the room where are right behind the committee members and presenters seated at tables.

From the notice:
The committee will receive a briefing on the subject of deep well irrigation from Hon. Janice Sherry, Minister of Environment, Labour and Justice and Attorney General; Jim Young, Director of Environment; and Bruce Raymond, Manager of Watershed and Subdivision Planning.

It is a little weird that the Minister and her people are coming to explain the issue to another set of MLAs, and it will be the Committee that will likely send a recommendation to lift or not lift the moratorium to that same Minister and Cabinet.

It should be interesting, and being there will show public interest in this issue, if it's convenient to get there.  The meeting is likely to go until 3 or 3:30, but the public can come and go as they please.

Margie Loo's letter was squeezed into an edition of the paper two weeks ago, and bears repeating here (bolding is mine):

More pressure on environment - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 30, 2014
By Margie Loo (a reader's view)

(An open letter to my MLA and the minister of environment)
I have been watching the discussion about lifting of the moratorium on deep-water irrigation wells with concern. I have listened as Gary Linkletter, chairman of the Potato Board, assures us there is ample water for everyone. I have also heard Daryl Guignion, a former biologist at UPEI, express great concern about taking more water from our aquifers.

Mr. Linkletter assures us the province has done an evaluation of our groundwater and that we only use an average of two per cent of the annual recharge.  I wonder what conditions that two per cent is based on.  Was it a year when the streams were drying up, and the City of Charlottetown was asking residents to limit water use?  Obviously the years when irrigation is needed are the same years that the aquifers are unusually low.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. There are other things that make P.E.I.ʼs environment unique. We have very sandy soil.
We all know what happens when it rains on exposed soils; our waterways turn red.  What we donʼt see is the agricultural chemicals and fertilizers leaching down into the groundwater.  We assume our deep-water aquifers have not yet been affected too much by nitrates but as this pristine deep water gets pumped out the more contaminated shallow groundwater will move down to refill them.

The spectre of nitrate contamination spreading rapidly throughout our water supply should be a great concern for all of us.
We donʼt know to what degree the shallow aquifers and the deep aquifers are connected to each other. If they were connected then we would expect that groundwater would be drawn down to recharge the deep aquifers during irrigation impacting household wells in the area. These domestic wells are in the shallow aquifers and with a dropping water table during dry summers many more homeowners will be forced to drill deeper wells. This is not a new problem as anyone digging wells can tell you. Who will be responsible for the cost of these new wells?

P.E.I. consists of fractured sandstone bedrock which creates unique challenges. This is significant because our underground aquifers do not flow in predictable ways. No one knows how drilling more deep wells will affect water moving though the bedrock.

There has not been a comprehensive study done of the hydrogeology of Prince Edward Island. Researchers from the Universities of Calgary and Guelph have only recently begun the first such study on P.E.I.

As a farmer myself I understand the challenge potato farmers face, however I also know there are other ways of solving this problem. For example it is well known that soil that has ample organic matter can withstand long stretches of dry weather.  Adding irrigation systems to land in potato production is going to increase the pressure to plant cash crops more often leading to greater depletion of organic matter, not to mention the eventual salinization of soil.  What is being proposed is really large-scale hydroponic production whereby the health of soils no longer matters at all.

Yes, potato production moves a lot of money though the Island economy. This isnʼt the whole picture. The cost to other sectors of the Island community must also be considered.

Farther, remember that deep-water irrigation wells do not ensure success for potato growers or take the uncertainty out of potato production. Potato production depends market demand, and this is something that P.E.I. producers canʼt control.
We do know however that allowing more deep wells certainly will put more pressure on P.E.I.ʼs environment.

Margie Loo of Elderflower Organic Farm, Belfast RR 3, is a pioneer in organic farming practices on P.E.I.

You can chat with her any Saturday at her booth at the Farmers' Market in Charlottetown.

February 12, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Martha Howatt and Peter Bower, who to me represent all the hard-working volunteers on watershed associations, made time to write this clear message:

Questions remain on deep-water wells - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on February 11, 2014

Gary Schneider, Dale Small, Daryl Guignion, Roger Gordon, Dr. Ian MacQuarrie, Shannon Mader, Margie Loo and Todd Dupuis have each written accurate, informed, and focused opinions that have appeared recently in The Guardian on the subject of deep-water wells.

These names are among those of the professionals whose expertise we seek when our watershed organizations apply for provincial funding and other grants. These are the names the government wants to see on our applications. They can make the difference between approval and rejection. These are the kinds of professionals who are in the streams and rivers observing water run off and erosion, anoxic events and associated fish kills from excessive nitrates, and estuaries dying from the spread of sea lettuce.

We cannot add any information they havenʼt provided from their many years of involvement in these issues near and dear to all of us, but we can add what they have to say is borne out by our years of work on our watersheds.

Nevertheless, we do have questions, including how will the noise, smell and sight of massive diesel pumps sitting in fields affect tourism? Will taxpayers again be subsidizing some farmers for drilling and purchasing the necessary equipment because it is doubtful that they will offset these costs by increased potato production? Is there any way to estimate the quantity of water that will be drawn from these wells?

The deep-well promoters and lobbyists maintain the farmers involved are concerned about the Islandʼs water resources. It is an understatement to point out we are all concerned, including the NFU which suggests that there may be alternatives.

We can only hope the lifting of the moratorium is not a done deal. The government must have meaningful and thorough public consultations. Letʼs take the time necessary to hold public meetings so Islanders are given the chance to absorb and understand the scientific evidence, to hear all sides, and to participate in a dialogue.

Our futures are at stake.

Martha Howatt, co-chair,
Peter Bower, chair,
South Shore Watershed Association

South Shore Watershed Association is a cooperative effort of four watersheds, west of the West River -- Augustine Cove, DeSable, Tryon and Westmoreland. http://www.sswa.ca/

In addition to all they do in meeting rooms and on the rivers' edges, they have a great website, with little jewels like this two-page leaflet about "What is a watershed?":

and this link to a charming and informative 48-page out-of-print booklet on PEI's water (it feels a bit old since it has hand-drawings, not clipart):

February 11, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Federal and provincial thoughts:

From David Suzuki, and worth sharing:

(Today) is Budget Day in Canada. It’s when the federal government lays out its plans for your money-- which programs and services it will introduce or expand and which it will cut or shut down.

Budgets are about choices--choices about what kind of country we are and what kind of things we value as a society. So while a lot of coverage will focus on what is or isn’t in this year’s budget, it’s important to look at this federal budget as a continuation in a long line of choices.  So let's ask: "What choices have been made so far?"

Clearly, the answers aren't good.
» 1.5 billion in cuts to the environment by 2016.
» 5 oil spill response offices closed across Canada.
» 8.4% cut to rail transportation safety.
» 99% of rivers and lakes now exempt from federal regulations.
» $56 million in cuts to Canada's food inspection system.
» 35 government libraries closed.
» More than 5,000 job losses at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada, Fisheries and Oceans and » Agriculture Canada over the next three years.
» Over $298 million in government advertising since 2009-2010.
» » » » » All while federal fossil fuel subsidies add up to more than $1.38 billion.

These budget choices paint a picture, and it doesn't look good for the health of our communities and the people and places we love.

(The) federal budget will represent another set of choices about what kind of Canada we are leaving for our children and generations of children yet to come.

And he is only discussing scientific and environmental choices!

Later this week, the first of several Thursday afternoon provincial legislative committee meetings regarding the high capacity well issue is taking place:

Thursday, February 13, 2014 Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry
1:30PM   Coles Building   -   Pope Room

Topic: The committee will receive a briefing on the subject of deep well irrigation from Hon. Janice Sherry, Minister of Environment, Labour and Justice and Attorney General; Jim Young, Director of Environment; and Bruce Raymond, Manager of Watershed and Subdivision Planning.

These are open to the public as spectators, as those of you who attended ones in previous years regarding Plan B or fracking know; the public sits off to one side and is expected to be quiet.  

This committee is not meeting next Thursday, February 20th, but they are on the 27th, when the Citizens' Alliance and the group it help form regarding this issue will have a few minutes before the committee.  (The group is called the Coalition for the Protection of PEI Waters, and has representatives from most of the Island groups opposed to the moratorium being lifted.)

February 10, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A few events to note:
Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 11th, 7PM, Lecture Theatre, Main Floor, Duffy Science Centre.
UPEI Climate Lab Lecture Series with Dr. Adam Fenech.  The lecture will include results from recent coastal erosion research projects conducted on P.E.I., how things have changed in our coastline in the last 40 years, and projections for the future.  More information: contact the Climate Lab at 620-5221 or climate@upei.ca.

Mark your calendar for towards the end of the month:
Wednesday, Wednesday, February 26th, 7PM, Rodd Charlottetown Hotel, Kent Street.
Public Forum on Water, including deep water wells, with Keynote speaker Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, and world expert on water, and other speakers on issues facing Islanders with regard to water.

Regarding fracking,
David McGregor wrote last month:

Allowing hydraulic fracturing in New Brunswick solves nothing - The Guardian Commentary by David A. McGregor, Stratford

Published on January 23, 2014

Hydraulic fracturing has been around since 1947, when the now infamous Halliburton Corporation pioneered its use to retrieve gas
deposits from a field in Kansas. Much the same as today, the processed involved injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals at high-pressure, first down, then across horizontally drilled holes in the earth (these holes can be as deep as 10,000 feet below the surface today). The pressure causes the rocks to crack and release the natural gas trapped within them. The rocks are kept separated by the sand particles, which allow the gas to flow up the well.

It sounds pretty simple, doesnʼt it? Water and sand at high pressure seem safe enough. Well, it canʼt be that dangerous. After all, they have been doing it since 1947. But what about those chemicals? I have been told some of them I can find in cleaners in my house. They canʼt be that bad? Right?

At fracfocus.org, you will see quite a litany of things on the menu. From acids and corrosion inhibitors to biocides and gelling agents, it is a very impressive cocktail. These are used to reduce friction, increase soil stabilization, kill bacteria and “winterize” the well, or as you and I would say “antifreeze.” This site, which is produced by the industry in the U.S., tells us we should not be alarmed. We should “trust them.” It is a safe and proven technology and that “they have the protection of the environment as their top priority.”

Residents of the town of Roaring Branch, Pennsylvania, would strongly disagree with that. In 2012, they reported rust-colored water flowing from a spring and two small creeks bubbling with methane gas. The incidents were among more than 50 similar cases related to the gas drilling in the state. In several instances houses exploded as a result of gas leaks and in one case three people were killed.

Workers at U.S. Steel and Allegheny Energy near McKeesport found that water used to power their plant contained so much salty sediment it was corroding their machinery. An estimated 10,000 fish died on a 33-mile stretch of Dunkard Creek in this area.

Furthermore, in June 2010, Vanity Fair wrote a story about the small town of Dimock, also in Pennsylvania. It states “Dimock is now known as the place where, over the past two years, peopleʼs water started turning brown and making them sick, one womanʼs water well spontaneously combusted, and horses and pets mysteriously began to lose their hair.

You would think the U.S. Congress might want to step in and do something about this: You would be wrong!

There are no regulations for hydraulic fracturing in 21 of the 31 states where the practice has been in effect for several years. Fracking was exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act passed by Congress as part of the Energy Policy Act in 2005.

What makes all of the above more of a travesty is that it doesnʼt even help the U.S. economy in the long run.
Dr. Richard Miller, former British Petroleum geologist and co-editor of a special edition of the prestigious magazine, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, co-authored a paper with Dr. Steve R. Sorrel, co-director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex in Brighton. In it, they state: “Greater reliance upon shale oil resources produced using hydraulic fracturing will exacerbate any rising trend in global average decline rates, since these wells have no plateau and decline extremely fast – for example, by 90 per cent or more in the first five years.”

Moreover, they deem any benefits to the U.S economy will be short lived. Shale oil production will not benefit the economy, will peak by 2020 and will never be able to replace the current 9 million barrels a day of imports.
New Brunswick is now allowing hydraulic fracturing in their province. Why would they want to? It will not meet their long term energy needs; it will not provide long term employment to local people; and it could cause a great amount of damage to the environment and local people, which can not be reversed.

The winner, of course, will be Corridor Resources, currently performing the fracking. If everything goes well, they will be able to use the water, air and land resources cheaply and any profits will go to the management.
If things go badly, and there is a chemical spill, the company can just declare bankruptcy, the management loses nothing, and the taxpayers of New Brunswick, or depending on the size of the spill, Canada will be left with the cost of the clean up.
It doesnʼt matter how rich you become if you donʼt have clean air, water or food. As many Pennsylvanians discovered, New Brunswick has made a potential deal with the devil.

and a satirical twist on what's going in New Brunswick

From the fake news release, they quote "the Premier":

"I want to be crystal clear, that we are supportive of shale gas companies, and their potential as an industry to prevent us from drinking our water. To not take advantage of our citizens would be one of the most irresponsible things a government could do,” .  

Alewife makes ‘crystal clear’ commitment to destroy the environment - The Daily Glove Puppet.com

Premier Duffer Alewife used his annual state of the province speech to reiterate his government’s “crystal clear” commitment to destroying the environment in New Brunswick, regardless of any potential political repercussions.

The government is looking to the development of unsustainable resources, such as shale gas, and a new plan for the forestry sector, to be released within days, to grow the share price of foreign energy companies, create temporary, low paying jobs, and create an environmental deficit, Alewife told the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce on Thursday night.

Alewife has touted the controversial shale gas industry before, but the speech was his final state of the province address of his career, with the provincial election just eight months away.

“I want to be crystal clear, that we are supportive of shale gas companies, and their potential as an industry to prevent us from drinking our water. To not take advantage of our citizens would be one of the most irresponsible things a government could do,” he said.

“I’ve had many people ask me why we are doing all these things, slow down, take the easy way out. That may be the most politically prudent approach, but I didn’t sign up for this job to stand still and not cash in on every last drop of dirty energy.”

During the 54-page speech, entitled Forgetting the Past, Destroying the Future, Alewife said he believes the province is now poisoned for an excruciating and cancerous future.

“Three years of ignoring the facts to push our ecological situation to the brink has set the stage for New Brunswick’s destruction, but only if we choose to exploit the environment before us,” he said.

February 9, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

So much stuff!  Here are two good letters from week before last, and the link to the presentation by the Department of Environment, Labour and Justice on the water extraction policy. 

From biologist Dr. Roger Gordon:

Minister should not give in to potato lobby - The Guardian Letter of the Day by Roger Gordon

Published on January 30, 2014

Our Minister of the Environment has shown poor leadership, not to mention patronizing attitude, by inviting the industry-inspired potato lobby group to educate Islanders on the merits of deep-water wells for irrigation purposes.

Now, Gary Linkletter has started this education remit with a treatise (Guardian, 25 Jan. - Guest Opinion) that attempts to explain the case for allowing corporate farming to access this precious water source by citing in the name of science conclusions from a government report. Is this the same report that the minister said would not be made available to the public, because it “was sent to me?”

So, it is hidden science. It is also science that obfuscates rather than clarifies. Mr. Linkletter makes no distinction between the shallower aquifers currently in public use and the deep-water source that would be accessed. We are given no information on the methodology used to form the conclusions. Respected environmental scientist Daryl Guignion believes there is insufficient scientific knowledge about the size and replenishment rate of the deep-water source to warrant lifting the moratorium. I agree.

Mr. Linkletter makes no mention of the quality of the deep water that he and his group would like to access. And for good reason.
The mindset of the agro sector toward industrial-scale production of potatoes, a low-value farm gate crop, has resulted in pesticide contamination of our rivers as well as high nitrate levels in surface and ground waters. The 2008 provincial Commission on Nitrates in Groundwater reported that as of 2007, an astounding 17 per cent of private wells surveyed were above or close to the safety limit for nitrates.

Aside from the fact most of the water will be wasted through evaporation, irrigation of heavily contaminated fields will speed up the leaching of agro-chemicals through the soil into our drinking water supply. And we are the only province in Canada totally dependent on groundwater. What is needed is not more potatoes, more pesticides, more fertilizers, but fewer potatoes, a more diversified agro-economy, with less reliance on toxicants. Water is a resource that belongs to the people of the province, not a sector of it. The minister should just say no to this irresponsible request.

Roger Gordon, Stratford, is a retired biologist and former Dean of Science at UPEI

And from Wendy Budgeon:  

Debate not needed on deep wells issue - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 29, 2014

I am absolutely dismayed at the debate over deep-water wells. What is there to debate? Our province depends on groundwater for life. Our children and grandchildren will be in bigger need of it than we are now.

How can our government even consider bargaining away our future for a handful of spuds? I have listened to the rhetoric on both sides and believe strongly in no more deep-water wells.

The potato industry would have us believe the science supports them. The only study I am aware of is almost a decade old. We cannot mortgage our future on 10-year-old science. Ten years ago the City of Charlottetown would have told you there was no water problem. We now know differently. Todayʼs science would have a different outcome as well I bet.

Please make your opinions known. Please donʼt believe 10-year-old science. Please save our childrenʼs and grandchildrenʼs water.

If potato farmers need more water then maybe they should be looking at desalination plants. But they wonʼt. Itʼs too expensive and the government couldnʼt help so much. So maybe there needs to be a dialog about truly treasuring the land and water not just about increasing yields and money.

P.E.I. could be a world leader in farm practices . . . instead we are just followers of dollars.

Wendy Budgeon, Charlottetown

And if you want to view the presentation from the Environment Department person given to the Federation of Agriculture last week, go here: http://www.gov.pe.ca/environment/water-extraction for a choice of the presentation on water extraction, the presentation with background slides, and the policy from the department.

February 8, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

This is an article written by Jack MacAndrew submitted to the Maritime publication Rural Delivery (DvL Publishing) and printed in the January/February 2014 issue, which I just received; and I reprint here, with Jack's permission:

TOO FRACK OR NOT TO FRACK: THAT IS THE QUESTION - Rural Delivery magazine by Jack MacAndrew

          "Fracking" - No , it is not a euphemism for another "F" word not usually employed in polite company, or in a family magazine such as this.

          It is, in fact , a made-up word - a grammatical invention, so to speak, conjured up as a bit of technospeak to describe a process by which natural gas may be extracted from the depths of planet earth, to the benefit of anyone who cooks their food, drives an automobile and huddles for wintertime warmth; not to exclude shareholders in multi-national energy companies who may get unspeakably rich from this resource belonging to all of us.

          We have always had this habit of adding the letters "ing" to a noun, so as to turn it into a verb: as in fish-fishing, truck-trucking, helicopter - helicoptering.

          In the case of fracking, there is no noun. There is no such a thing as a frack; no animal, vegetable or mineral known as a frack. You can't see one, touch one or box one to send off to grandma on her birthday.  Fracking, is a total grammatical invention, invented so you don't need to keep saying - " hydraulic fracturing"- which can give you a headache if you say it often enough. 

          There is just - " fracking "; and for many ( for instance,those farmers in Ohio owning those cows whose tails began to drop off), that is fearsome enough.

          There are a lot of people in Atlantic Canada who don't want big energy companies from away to come fracking down here, no matter what economic puffery and job projections the politicians and proponents offer as bait.

          Indeed a recent poll tells us that about 70 per cent of Atlantic Canadians are ag'in it.

           In Nova Scotia , the legislature has placed a similar restriction on fracking activity, at least until an independent committee verifies "...there is no risk to drinking water, human health, the climate or communities".

          That is a very steep hill for proponents to climb. The committee will report back to government some time in 2014.

          Newfoundland/Labrador has responded with the same sort of stance; and in Quebec, a moratorium has been in place for some time.

          There's a ban in place in Massachusetts, and New York State, and in France as well.

          But not in New Brunswick, as you may have noticed in your newspaper or on television newscasts lately. 

          Nosireebob... not in your New Brunswick. The government of that fair and picturesque province ("The Picture Province", I believe it is nicknamed in tourist advertisements ) has turned over 1.4 million acres of its land mass to the subsidiary of an American owned company (Southwestern Energy) called SWN Resources Canada so it may zip about in large white trucks sinking test drills and using other seismic technology wherever it believes the underearth may secrete pockets of gas in beds of brittle shale rock.

          " Get to 'er lads...", invited Premier David Aylward, "... fill yer boots !"...all for a promise by the company to spend 47 million dollars in New Brunswick along with the unproven estimate of 1000 jobs and 1.5 billion big ones in economic activity; a price some would argue is merely a contemporary version of selling a birthright for the proverbial bowl of pottage. 

          And never no mind that more than 60 per cent of herrin'chokers of all political stripes said in a poll they did not want fracking in their province.

          That would include members of the Elisipogtog First Nation, who pointed out to the provincial government that it had no business giving SWN permission to bore test holes on their territory ,for a very simple reason-the provincial government does not own that land and has no right to do so without their consent. The aboriginal people have never ceded it to any government under any treaty.

          In November, months of peaceful protests ended and the barricades came down with massed and menacing police riot squads facing unarmed women and band elders, and according to one observer" .... shot rubber bullets at the mothers and the grandmothers, at the children".

          The protests were deemed by pundit Rex Murphy "...a rude dismissal of Canada's generosity ..." 

          The warrior societies sent in their own troops to defend their people on Indian lands.

          Then the whole shebang went south in a hurry.  

          The Prime Minister of Canada condemned the state use of riot squads to disperse and arrest peaceful protesters in the Ukraine. 

          He was so absorbed watching the massed cops in full riot gear over there, he didn't seem to notice massed cops in riot gear assaulting women and elders protesting on the Elisipogtog Reserve.               

          Police cars were burned in reprisal, and more than 40 Aboriginal and Acadien protesters were arrested.  Most have since been released . Some are still facing serious charges. 

          SWN has now packed up its gear and driven away, presumably to some place more receptive to their activity.

          But opposition to the fracking of New Brunswick has not gone into hibernation . Instead ,core groups are organizing and expanding the coalition of church groups, environmentalists, and other like minded souls to take on Premier David Aylward when he leads his government to the polls on September 14.

          And in the other three Atlantic Provinces, those independent committees will be holding public meetings and reviewing such scientific literature as exists.

          Which takes us to an explanation of what hydraulic fracturing (1.e fracking ) is, and what it does, and why it upsets so many people and makes them sick.

          Here's the recipe for what is admittedly a toxic brew.

          A slurry of so-called " Slick-water " is mixed up in a giant blender. The recipe calls for 90 per cent water; 5 percent sand ; and 5 percent chemical additives (acids , sodium chloride, polyacrylamide, ethylene glycol, borate salts, sodium/potassium carbonate, glutaraldehyde, guar gum, citric acid, and isopropanol, amongst other nasty stuff.

          It's that 5 per cent of chemical additives which can cause a lot of misery should it permeate and pollute water drawn from underground aquifers.

          The acid , by the way , is used to make the rock structure more permeable.

          That's a special fear on Prince Edward Island. If you kick a rock in New Brunswick, chances are you'll break a toe. If you kick a rock in PEI chances are you'll break the rock.  Already permeable sandstone, do you see.

          Anyhow, having mixed up your mess of slurry, you then dig a hole in the ground that could be as deep as 6000 metres ( 20,000 feet ), dump it into the hole , and then pump it horizontally into shale rock at a pressure high enough to crack the rock.The slurry then moves further into the shale , fracking away as it goes along , releasing any gas trapped in pockets along the way.

          The slurry and the natural gas then flow back up the borehole to the surface, where the millions of litres of slurry ( now termed " wastewater ") is diverted into plastic lined tanks dug into the earth's surface , and the gas is channeled into holding tanks. 

          A new study says that scientists who theorized that layers of impermeable rock would keep shallower aquifers pure are wrong in their conclusions; and that natural forces and fractures underground will allow chemicals to foul groundwater " ..in just a few years...".

          Nova Scotia has already had that experience.

          In 2007 the government issued a permit to Triangle Petroleum,  allowing the company to 

explore the presence of natural gas in Hants County.Triangle drilled five exploration wells , three of which were fracked. The company used and then stored 14 millions of litres of wastewater in artificial , plastic lined ponds.

          Millions of litres of that highly polluted wastewater remains in those ponds.

          It contains everything from known carcinogens to radio active material.  Nobody knows what to do with the wastewater. Some of it was secretly released into the environment. Some of it has leaked from one of the ponds.

          Indeed, the wastewater from fracking poses an enormous environmental problem all by itself. 

          A report on that experience, entitled " Out of Control: Nova Scotia's Experience with Fracking for Shale Gas" ,was  prepared by the Nova Scotia Fracking Resource and Action Coalition ( NOFRAC)and released in April of 2013.

          It said : " At this time there is no scientific evidence indicating that any method of disposal of fracking wastewater is environmentally safe ": and that , " Emerging science is exposing unexpected and serious risks".

          The report posed two choices for government ; press on with a trial-and-error learn as we go approach to shale gas development; or, slow down and look at all the costs and benefits , and especially the reality that if things go wrong , they may be unfixable.

          The report notes that some of the effects of fracking may only become evident years later ; after the fracking company is long gone, and it's responsibility impossible to prove.

          The people of Hants County know this better than anyone.

          NOFRAC recommended either a ten year moratorium, or an outright ban on fracking.

          During the months to come , both sides of the issue will undoubtedly produce volumes of documentation to prove their case .

          The anti-frackers will have a rich record to draw on .

          In Blackpool, England, a fracking company named Cuadrilla Resources admits : " It is highly probable that the hydraulic fracturing ( of a well ) did trigger a number of minor seismic events"- in other words - mini-earthquakes.

          In Louisiana seventeen cows died after an hour's exposure to spilled fracking fluid; in Pennsylvania, 140 cattle were exposed to fracking wastewater when an impoundment was breached and 70 of them died while the others got sick;in Hickory , Pennsylvania , Darrell Smitsky got rashes on his body from exposure to toluene, acrylonitrite, strontium , barium and manganese;and in Washington County , Stacey Haney's dog and goats died, while her son and daughter suffered stomach and kidney pain along with nausea and mouth ulcers. Glycol and arsenic will do that to you.

          The incidence of human and livestock ailments after exposure to fracking fluid and/or wastewater is extensive.

          The case for fracking can only be expressed in vague, ambiguous forecasts, and promises made according to complex economic models.

          The case becomes a spin doctor's challenge. 

          It's hard to convince people of an economic nirvana, when the other side counters with documented horror stories of individual suffering.

          Which by itself raises an essential question - on which side does the burden of proof rest - with the frackers ,to guarantee no harm will result to people , their animals or the environment on the road to economic benefit; or the anti-frackers , maintaining there is no safe way to exploit the reserves of shale gas under our feet; and no particular need to do so in any case.

          And this question emerges - We now know what happens when we send noxious gases skyward.  So what does it do to the underearth environment when hundreds or thousands of explosions take place underground in a few hectares of land mass ?

          We do not know with any certainty , and the penalty we would pay for challenging and changing the very foundations of planet earth evolved over eons of time - could be severe and irreversible. 

          The anti-fracking crowd will document hundreds of cases of visible harm; from benzene in the bathwater to cows without tails in the barnyard.

          There is that matter of "unintended consequences", should the energy companies frack away to their bankers' joy .

          And if they come at the expense of farmers and country people, what recourse will there have when the well goes sour and the water is undrinkable for them or their livestock?

**The one fact I am not sure of is legislation this spring in the PEI Legislature about fracking, based on Minister Sherry's comments from a couple of weeks ago.

I would also mention that Rural Delivery, if you haven't ever read a copy, is a great publication (as are the sister publications Atlantic Forestry, etc.)
The website is here, with older stories, but new monthly or bi-monthly issues are available at the feed stores and some bookstores.  It's quite a good connection about people interested in living and working in their communities.

And some Farmers' Markets are open today.

February 7, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Friday Fun and Games:

Sometimes charts help you see patterns.

Repeating History


Plan B

High Capacity Wells

Department and Minister responsible

Transportation, Vessey

Environment, Sherry

Minister punts to

Stantec consulting

PEI Potato Board


writes, and then retracts, *approval* of Plan B

Says it's not their job, but is part of team
with Cavendish Farms hiring former MLAs/Premier's staff as consultants

and that results in

dozens and dozens of letters
from concerned, articulate

dozens and dozens of letters
from concerned, articulate Islanders

Minister's spokesperson duties shifted to

Steven Yeo, chief engineer

Bruce Raymond, manager of watershed planning

who says

Plan B is needed for safety.
 It will meet or exceed TAC Standards

There is capacity for "dozens and dozens
 and dozens of wells."

Mr. Yeo said, "I was expecting that," when quality problems have already occurred on Plan B.  Do we want Mr. Raymond to be saying that in a few years about water quality problems?

Ultimately, Islanders know, the responsibility for both of these decisions rests with the Premier.

and the Island Successor to Suess, Carl Mathis:

Pave will wave so pave the wave - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on February 06, 2014

Little did we know, last October, that our chief engineer was expecting . . . on Plan B. This was consulted. You must recall the meeting where it was discussed, just as Plan B was so thoroughly disgusted. Plan Bb: The pave will wave, so weʼll pave the wave.

Carl Mathis, Charlottetown

February 6, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

From the insert in yesterday's Guardian, The PEI Roadbuilders and Heavy Construction Association annual insert.  The publication is devoid of bragging about Plan B (an outlook report wistfully mentions an additional $10 million from it last year for the "realignment" and describes 2014 as likely to be a "slim year").

Then there is this ad on the second to last page:

Stantec environmental consulting firm ad, in Road Builders' insert, The Guardian, February 5th, 2014.  (The red oval and green writing are mine.)  

Stantec was hired by the province to produce the Environmental Impact Assessment for Plan B, and certainly proud of their work.
I wonder how Stantec would be involved if high capacity wells and hydraulic fracturing come any closer to PEI.

Today's Guardian covers the involvement of lobbyists in the high capacity well issue.
Yesterday was a meeting of the Legislative Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry.  They were just supposed to plan the schedule for requests for presentations from groups concerned about high capacity wells.  It sounds like the PC Opposition (which is different then one of them first said) *did* meet with the lobbyists, but not Mr. Chris LeClair (Premier Ghiz's former chief of staff).  The bolding is mine:

Call for lobbyists to testify leads to fiery debate - The Guardian article by Teresa Wright

Published on February 6th, 2014

A fiery meeting of MLAs on the contentious issue of deep-water irrigation wells ended Wednesday with a majority vote against calling two politically connected lobbyists to testify.

Opposition MLA Colin LaVie wanted the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry to call the premierʼs former chief of staff, Chris LeClair, and former Liberal MLA Cynthia King to appear.

The two have been hired by the Potato Board and Cavendish Farms to co-ordinate meetings with as many provincial MLAs as possible to lobby in favour of lifting the current moratorium on irrigation wells.

LaVieʼs request led to a heated exchange between government and Opposition MLAs Wednesday, especially when it came to light LeClair did not attend meetings with the Tory caucus or with Independent MLA Olive Crane, but did atend meetings with Liberal MLAs.

“They didnʼt see fit to attend our (meeting). Why?” said Opposition MLA James Aylward.

“I think this committee, Islanders in general, deserve to know what these lobbyists are doing, what their agenda is.”
Liberal backbencher Kathleen Casey argued calling the P.E.I. Potato Board to the committee would suffice, since the board was one of the parties that engaged LeClair.

Liberal MLA Pat Murphy accused the Tories of playing politics on the issue of deep-water wells, which he said is a “very important issue to the province.”

But Opposition Leader Steven Myers frequently interrupted them.

“He was the premierʼs right-hand-man, heʼs lobbying on behalf of the potato industry, letʼs have him here,” he said.

“Does having Chris LeClair involved with this give whoever it is thatʼs lobbying for deep water wells... a direct line to the decision maker of this province. Thatʼs the question.

“It just screams political interference. I donʼt know why you wouldnʼt want to know if someone is trying to directly influence the premier.”

The only Liberal MLA who supported the idea of calling the two to testify was Buck Watts, who said he felt it was the only way they could clarify their roles and not continue to polarize the committee.

“After hearing the way this meeting is starting out, I think we should bring Cynthia King and Chris LeClair in to clear their name and find out exactly what they were doing, why they were doing it... who were they hired by, who were they paid by, whatʼs their reason for doing it,” Watts said.

“Weʼre going to be into a bloody mess all through if we donʼt get this straightened out off the bat, get this cleaned up, get this off the plate.”

But in the end, the request was denied in a vote of 4-3, with Watts voting with LaVie and Aylward. Casey, Murphy, Bush Dumville and Hal Perry defeated the motion.

After the meeting, LaVie said he believes the Liberals on the committee were the ones playing politics.

“Itʼs another sign theyʼve got something to hide,” he said.

“Theyʼre making a political issue out of it, and they said in the meeting they didnʼt want to make it political – then put them at the table. Let us hear it.”

The committee did, however agree to LaVieʼs request to call Environment Minister Janice Sherry to appear. The committee will further be delving into the hot-button issue of deep well irrigation for the next two months, with weekly meetings planned until the end of March.

After that, public consultations will be held to ensure all Islanders have the chance to voice their opinions.

Environment, Labour and Justice Minister Janice Sherry is looking for a little help:

An Ad posting pointed out to me on the government's Exceutive Council Office website:

Assistant Deputy Minister of Environment, Prince Edward Island Department of Environment, Labour and Justice

An opportunity to make a real difference
Based in Charlottetown, working as an Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) with the Government of Prince Edward Island, you can leverage your leadership skills, influence, and expertise to make a real difference as the province shapes its environmental initiatives for today and future generations. You will have responsibility for a wide range of programs, services and activities related to environmental protection, land development, and inspection services.

Position Summary:
Your primary responsibilities as the ADM are to provide advice and support to the Minister and Deputy Minister of Environment, Labour and Justice, recommend and implement government policies and plans, provide leadership and guidance to related functional areas through the Director and senior management team, and manage fiscal and human resources. You will find the right solutions for the environment and the people of PEI.

And finally, in a sea of well-crafted, heartfelt letters about this high capacity well issue, this evocative one stuck with me:

Using more water wonʼt help matters - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on February 05, 2014

More water, more potatoes, more environmental degradation.

Since the science says P.E.I.ʼs deep- water supply can grow more potatoes, whatʼs the guarantee it will be done more safely to enhance the environment?

And why hasnʼt science disproven the theory that what weʼre growing and how weʼre growing it may be connected to P.E.I.ʼs high cancer rate?

Weʼve been told for years that growing more potatoes, like catching more lobsters, results in lower prices in the marketplace where we are a mere drop in the bucket, compared to Idaho and Western Canada where soils are rich and deep.

Using more water wonʼt change farming methods. Choosing to use more water to mitigate poor farming practices wonʼt work to enhance worn out soil, and improve the environment everyone shares.

Letʼs ask some basic questions here of our government or any other party that wants to form one:

- How will pumping more water to grow 30,000 more acres of potatoes stop environmental degradation?

- How will 30,000 acres more make P.E.I. a better place to be in 2103 when weʼre all gone and weʼve left the mess to families following us?

- What ever happened to the Liberal philosophy of Canadaʼs youngest premier in 1966 who said “the faster we go, the more behinder weʼll get”? Alex Campbell was 32 and just last month Premier Robert Ghiz turned 40. I think our premier needs to talk with Alex soon about a vision that hasnʼt become a reality to make P.E.I. stronger, and a better place to live.

We must become more than just a province where former Islanders come home to retire and then die, in a dying environment.

In this small Island heaven, weʼve got to get our furrows “straighter” before we “drift” any further.

Lorne Yeo, Argyle Shore

February 5, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

More about the high capacity wells from yesterday and Monday:

from Compass Monday night, about 6:30 into the broadcast
The executive director of the Federation of Agriculture said a resolution passed at their AGM, saying to lift the ban on these wells only if the scientific data shows that there would not affect water quantity or quality.
They want to see all the studies laid out, and meet with people who have done the work.

The Province says all the science is on the website.
In yesterday's Guardian, this news story on the front page (copied at the end with my bolding):

and here is one of the many outstanding commentary pieces (bolding mine), on the editorial page, by biologists Daryl Guignion and Ian MacQuarrie:

Industry reports of deep-water wells still "opinion, not science." - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Daryl Guignion and Ian MacQuarrie


The Islandʼs potato industry has prepared a position paper designed to support its request for more access to our groundwater for irrigation. We believe the industryʼs claims need a closer look.

The industry says its competitors — growers in regions such as Washington and Idaho — produce more potatoes per acre than we can here. They say that yields in the western U.S. are increasing annually, and that irrigation is the key to increasing local yields and making P.E.I. competitive with these regions.

The fact is places like Washington and Idaho have many competitive advantages such as longer growing seasons and much deeper topsoil than we have on P.E.I. Irrigation will not change this. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and others have shown that soil quality, especially organic matter, is the key factor in productivity. Because of the land management choices made by P.E.I.ʼs potato industry, our soil quality has gotten worse Island-wide and this decline continues.

The industry says science shows that lifting the moratorium and allowing more irrigation would only use a tiny fraction of the groundwater recharge and would not overburden natural groundwater resources.

The fact is there is as yet no verified science on this. Industry is quoting unpublished and unreviewed reports from a government department and one hired consultant. This is opinion, not science.

Further, it is the opinion of a small group within government. Other government staff — those with expertise in fish, wildlife and wetlands, for example — have not been consulted. Until these reports are released to the public and peer-reviewed by independent experts, they should not be regarded as science.

The industry says additional irrigation would not affect residential or commercial use of groundwater.

The fact is potato production is already affecting Islandersʼ water and additional irrigation could make this worse. In heavily farmed areas of the province — places such as Albany, Borden-Carleton, Lower Freetown, Middleton and Mount Royal, for example — many private wells have nitrate levels higher than Health Canadaʼs guideline.

This nitrate is from chemical fertilizer used by agriculture, and the contamination is getting worse across P.E.I. Additionally, pumping irrigation water from deep underground can pull contaminated water from nearer the surface into the deeper levels. In the short term, homeowners can dig (and pay for) deeper wells. As contamination moves into deeper levels, even that may no longer work.

The industry says irrigation will produce healthier potatoes that require less fertilizer and pesticides. It says that potato growers understand the need to be conscientious stewards of the land and are committed to environmental sustainability.

The fact is past behaviour predicts future behaviour. Consider the potato industryʼs track record of “conscientious stewardship” and “environmental sustainability:”

- Soil erosion rates are more than 10 times higher than those deemed acceptable for agricultural land. More than 60,000 truckloads are lost from P.E.I. farmland into our streams and rivers every year and the situation is not improving.

- Nitrate — chemical fertilizer from farmland — contaminates the majority of private wells on P.E.I., with many above the accepted Canadian drinking water guidelines. This contamination worsens each year.

- Excessive sea lettuce — caused by nitrates — chokes many bays and estuaries, with direct economic impacts on P.E.I.ʼs shellfish and other industries. The stinking conditions that this situation creates are happening earlier and in more areas each year.

- More than 50 fish kills have been reported across P.E.I., including two in the past year. Despite annual Government and industry statements that fish kills are unacceptable, they continue.

- Opposition to action that would address these problems. P.E.I.ʼs potato industry has consistently refused to accept responsibility for these issues.

It is clear that this denial of responsibility continues: their position paper clearly states that industry seeks increased access to water with no new regulatory restrictions beyond the Agricultural Crop Rotation Act. It has been publically reported that many potato producers do not even comply with this Act at present.

We call on government to implement the following before making a decision on industryʼs request:

- Open up governmentʼs opinion on water availability to peer review. This would include the water extraction policy and the models used to develop it.

- Develop a Water Policy for Prince Edward Island that clearly outlines how clean and high-quality water will be provided for current and future generations. Development of this policy requires public consultation.

- Determine and make public the true economic impact of the potato industry on P.E.I. This includes its economic contributions, as well as the clean-up costs currently borne by the public, as well as subsidies and rebates paid to it by taxpayers.

- Establish an Action Group to develop a new Agricultural Strategy which focuses on true economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Daryl Guignion and Ian MacQuarrie are award-winning biologists with many decades of experience in soil, water and ecology.

Deep-water wells in province's hands - The Guardian article by Steve Sharratt

Published on Tuesday, February 4th

A recommendation to lift the current moratorium on deep-water wells is headed to government following unanimous support by the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture.

The resolution by the largest agricultural organization in the province was approved in a closed-door session Friday afternoon and will seek the removal of a 10-year-old moratorium on deep-water wells for agricultural irrigation.

However, the resolution is two-fold, and insists the moratorium removal is based on quality science and a significant water management program to monitor the resource.

“The members gave support to the lifting of the moratorium for supplemental irrigation purposes provided the Department of Environment has the science to back such a step,ʼʼ said P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture executive director John Jamieson. “Our members recognize water is a public resource and we are all concerned about groundwater.”

Controversy has spiked over the issue of providing permits to farmers who are seeking supplemental irrigation wells to make up for a lack of summer rainfall.

Jamieson said irrigation isnʼt exclusive to potato farms and is sought by those in other horticultural activities from blueberries to flowers.

“Letʼs keep in mind that these irrigation wells arenʼt going to be turned on from May until harvest,ʼʼ he said. “The irrigation is only needed for the few dry spots during the growing season.”

Last year, a lack of rainfall in the central areas of the province impacted everything from carrots to potatoes and farmers say opportunities to irrigate during those dry spells would have prevented crop loss.

The federation annual meeting held Friday heard from provincial watershed manager Bruce Raymond, who said there was ample water supply on P.E.I. and adequate recharge rates as well. However, despite strong water levels, Raymond said all regions of the province could experience different impacts depending on the amount of water extracted.

“The federation resolution also insists that a solid water-extraction policy is implemented and controls where wells are dug and how much is taken ...it would have to be resourced managed,ʼʼ said Jamieson.

The resolution, along with others, was approved during a closed-door session of the meeting. In the past, federation resolutions have always been debated in an open session during the annual meeting.

February 4, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Quotable Quotes:

The Guardian filmed a clear cup of sloshing red juice on the dashboard of their car, while driving along the Plan B road -- pretty strong visual of how bumpy the road it. (Story below)

Steven Yeo, the chief engineer: "I fully expected this to happen." 
Why didn't he say that earlier?  Does he expect anything else we don't?

There is a cute little timeline link to some of the paper's stories about Plan B in the article.

Rocky "Plan B" road only temporary, province says - The Guardian article by Ryan Ross

Published on February 3rd, 2014

The construction process might have been a little rocky, but the drive on part of the Trans- Canada Highway isnʼt any smoother thanks to bumps on the section of road known as Plan B.

Some drivers on the new, $16-million highway, which opened to traffic along the entire stretch in the fall, have been left wondering why it is so bumpy, considering it is was only recently paved.

Steve Yeo, the provinceʼs chief engineer, said when construction is done late in the season there are often what he called "frost differentials" or heaving.

“I fully expected that to happen,” he said.

Construction on the highway began in 2012 after protests shut it down temporarily and it officially opened in October 2013 from one end of the realignment to the other.

Some drivers have since been complaining about how uneven and bumpy the road has become.

Yeo said the areas that were paved last were the worst sections near New Haven and in the Bonshaw area.

Itʼs because the moisture didnʼt have time to dry and settle so itʼs consistent, Yeo said. 

“Under the asphalt you get pockets of higher moisture content, which when it freezes raises more.”

Yeo said roads typically rise about three inches in the winter when they freeze, but when that happens itʼs usually consistent across the entire road.

Another layer of asphalt will be laid on the road this year and Yeo said when people drive on the highway next winter they wonʼt see the bumps that are there now.

“Youʼll see a consistent heave across the whole mat,” he said.
The whole Plan B episode ...a consistent heave.

George Webster, Agriculture Minister, regarding high capacity wells: "We need much more consultation with the public so they are informed.''

Once again, Consultation results in the populace being Educated.


But here is the quote we need:

"Fumigation of soil, more high capacity wells, soil erosion, nitrates in ground and surface water, fish kills (better to call them river kills) and multiple, annual anoxic events in our waterways across PEI. We have tied it all together so many times and brought it to our politicians, planners, farmers, industries, road builders and more. We will continue to do so, but we need to keep improving the awareness of the connections. Our wildlife, natural areas and our own health depend on us not making this situation worse. Do what you can to prevent future damage."

  - Jackie Waddell, Island Nature Trust

February 3, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Just a note about Plan B, as in Bumpity.  If you have had no other choice but to drive on Plan B in the past six weeks or so, you may have noticed increasingly wavy or just plain bumpy areas, especially at the Bonshaw and the New Haven ends of the project.  At first I thought I was being too critical of a little frost-heaving, and apparently at Transportation they have said all will be fine after the second coat of asphalt in the summer.  Listening to fairly unbiased people about road-building, it's not just a little frost-heaving.  We watched the rush in those same areas to get gravel and asphalt down so Minister Vessey could brag that the road was done before the end of October.  Packs of gravel trucks dumping on the run, and a dozen asphalt trucks lined up for quite a while behind what appeared to be a broken paver. 

From October 23rd, 2013, furiously dumping gravel at Plan B (this photo is where Plan B cut into the old TCH near Fairyland).  Cars were on this part within days.

No amount of asphalt is going to fix problems with the gravel bed over that broken up rocky sandstone -- it's not chocolate butter frosting I can use to even out a lopsided cake -- and it sounds like traffic and hot weather will likely exacerbate the waves.  In the meantime, there is still winter and spring; perhaps a "Stop Plan B" bumper sticker can be rustled up for the first photo of a pothole on Plan B.  ;-)

February 2, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some random notes, perhaps good for reading with a warm cup of something on a wet Sunday:

Fracking in Noca Scotia:
A Nova Scotia company says it is able to clean up fracking waste water.
Is this the water used to frack the well, then pumped out and in holding structures, or the water and chemicals that leaks through any breakdown in the concrete pipes?  (I think I know the answer.)

As of right now, Nova Scotia is not allowing fracking, but the new government has called for a review, which is evaluated here:

Regarding PEI and high capacity wells:
Yesterday's Guardian had a story about the presentation on groundwater by the Department of Environment's Bruce Raymond at the Federation of Agriculture's AGM Friday, and Agriculture Minister Webster's comments (article printed further down this e-mail):

Someone wrote me:

"It would appear that Government has ripped the (Educate the Public on the Wells) File back from the Potato Board.

The press did not note any Potato Board presentations at the Federation of Agriculture meeting.

Government is now doing the Full Sale mode (including a timely little "Environmental Update" tucked into this morning's Guardian).

It seems as though they are using the road-tested "Announce and Defend" template, sans Announcement.

Sherry has been muzzled as well, with the Premier stepping up to take the helm.

The Good News is that both Ghiz and Webster are not optimistic about getting Permits on-stream this season.

They both are talking about some form of public consultation.

This to me indicates that some Time has been bought."

Deep water well issue may go to public consultation - The Guardian article by Steve Sharratt

Published on February 1, 2014

He’s not ruling it out but Agriculture Minister George Webster says the lifting of the deep water well moratorium and issuing new permits this year could be a stretch.

But that all might depend on the opinion of Islanders.

Webster confirmed at the annual meeting of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture Friday in Charlottetown that a process is forthcoming to engage the general public and gather opinion on the controversial issue.

A moratorium on deep water wells was established 10 years ago and some potato growers are pressing the government to lift the ban and allow some new permits to be acquired this year. There are already 35 deep water wells grandfathered into the regulations, and Webster said there have been no adverse effects recorded from those wells.

“We need much more consultation with the public so they are informed,’’ he told The Guardian in an interview. “We will likely be told here today that there is adequate water available, but we want the public to be able to air opinion and hear the science.”

Watershed management director Bruce Raymond of the Department of Environment was one of the highlights at the farm meeting when he identified that — while every region is different — P.E.I. is mostly blessed with plenty of water and at a regular recharge rate.

“It works out to the equivalent of 154 Olympic size swimming pools for every square kilometre,’’ he told a roomful of farmers at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. “That’s about 70 times more than we currently use across the province.”

Raymond wasn’t suggesting there was so much water that irrigation permits should be handed out carte blanche, but he confirmed that the entire province only uses seven per cent (for everything) of the 35 per cent of the current water supply readily available.

The $1 billion dollar potato industry is looking to irrigate about 30,000 additional acres and estimates it would only take an additional one per cent of water. Raymond said the “math” hadn’t been finalized, but estimated that was a low ball figure.

“We use about seven per cent of the available level (top of the aquifer) so there is still quite a bit of water,’’ he said.

Webster said Stratford is currently using almost 90 per cent of its current water supply and irrigation permits would not be entertained from that region, but he confirmed there were certain parts of the province where the water was more than plentiful.

The minister said he expects full consultations with the public coming soon and before any decision is made by government.

“This year might be a stretch but I’m not ruling it out or saying it’s going to happen. Some could be doable, but not from coast to coast to coast.”

Opposition Leader Steven Myers attended the presentations on deep water wells and climate change and insisted public consultation was necessary.

“I won’t oppose a decision based on good science,’’ he said. “But there’s no need to rush on making a good decision. I’m asking the government to put everything on the table so we can all decide.”

Finally, regarding Canada Post's drastic plans to cut door-to-door mail delivery and raise postal rates, a commentary this week in The Guardian, by Herb Dickieson, former NDP MLA in the PEI Legislature.  Please keep writing your opinions, Dr. Dickieson.

Canada must keep door-to-door postal delivery - The Guardian Guest Opinion By Herb Dickieson

Published on January 29, 2014

It is of grave concern to Islanders that Stephen Harperʼs government decided to cut Canada Post and eliminate door-to-door delivery without meaningful discussion or consultation with Canadians.

Canada Post Corporation — an institution that predates Confederation — was created to provide a high standard of postal service that meets the needs of the people of Canada. It has done so for over 150 years, and has been profitable for most of that time, including the recent 2012 figures, and 16 of the last 17 years.

Rather than strengthening our national postal service to help keep it competitive, the Harper government has irresponsibly raised the price

of postage stamps by 59 per cent overnight and is busy slashing postal services and jobs to a level unseen anywhere else in the developed world. Once Mr. Harperʼs radical changes are complete, Canada will be the only major industrial country in the world without any door-to-door mail delivery.

The Harper government quickly attempted to downplay the massive price increases and service cuts by claiming the changes will only affect “a few wealthy downtowners.” On the contrary, it has been reported that close to four million apartment and condo dwellers whose mail is delivered to their building mailboxes will no longer receive that service, and close to three-quarter million rural residents with individual rural route mailboxes will eventually be moved to community mailboxes, along with an additional two million Canadians who live in smaller towns and use general delivery or post office boxes.

While some of these Canadians may be “wealthy downtowners”, the majority are average Canadians including seniors and the disabled who will be forced into using outdoor community mailboxes regardless of their ability to do so.

Stephen Harperʼs decision making can only be explained by his governmentʼs recent but hushed announcement that it was ordering Canada Post to delay addressing its unfunded pension liabilities until 2018 — well after the next election. By kicking the pension can down the road for another government to deal with Mr. Harper neatly passes the buck and avoids having to pay for Canada Postʼs $1-billion pension shortfall next year, something that would have sunk his plan to go to the polls in 2015 with a balanced budget. Mr. Harper seems to think it is acceptable to radically cut Canadaʼs postal system solely to improve his election prospects, putting his party ahead of the interests of Canadians.

Being fiscally responsible is important, but forcing Canadaʼs seniors and disabled to outdoor community mailboxes subject to theft, vandalism and poor weather, and denying them their door-to-door delivery of important items including medications for the sole benefit of Stephen Harperʼs electoral prospects is not only wrong, itʼs shameful.

Canadians have agreed on the services they want . . . and that includes Canada Post and door-to-door delivery. No other developed country in the world is going down this path, and neither should we.

Dr. Herb Dickieson is a family physician practising in Prince County and is a former member of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island.

February 1, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

The concerns about lifting a ban on high capacity wells keeps pouring into our public forums.  The papers are full of excellent letters practically each day.   It would seem incredibly un-smart if a government didn't pay attention to the tenor of public opinion as exemplified in our dear Guardian, Journal-Pioneer, and Graphics.  Unfortunately, as with Plan B, government appears either not paying attention to this legitimate mode of public communication**,  or purposing downplaying people's opinions.
**in what seemed like a bit of a Sarah Palin moment, my MLA admitted last year that she often didn't read the paper.

Your letters definitely get the *public* thinking.

The Guardian 

The Eastern (and West Prince) Graphic

The Journal-Pioneer 


On last night's CBC Compass, reporter John Jeffery went to the Federation of Agriculture annual general meeting and summarized it pretty well, with his story about 6:20 into the broadcast.
The membership heard from Bruce Raymond of the Department of the Environment who was on CBC Radio early Thursday, saying The Science says there is plenty of water if we stay within the policy.

The Department of the Environment (to their credit) Friday placed what is likely Mr. Raymond's powerpoint presentation on this page.  The second choice has the "slides" with additional background information, and the third is the actual policy.  (Just a note that a policy is not the same as legislated "Water Act", a related issue.)
If you have time to poke around in it this weekend.

The Federation did not make any sort of public statement on the issue of high capacity wells.

Agriculture Minister George Webster did say, "Don't look at your own farm gate. Look at the Big Picture."  A statement most would agree with.

From Rob MacLean, blueberry farmer, among other things, of Lewes:

No reason yet to trust industry - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on January 29, 2014

If governments and the potato industry havenʼt gotten soil conservation right, why should we believe theyʼre competent to manage our common water supply?

Science is very clear that minimizing erosion by maintaining soil organic matter of at least three percent is what we should do and that a crop rotation of at least three years is the way to do it. We canʼt plead ignorance. For decades, weʼve had commissions, round tables, teaching sessions and grants encouraging this goal.

In 2002, we even passed a law mandating crop rotations. The governmentʼs own website says one purpose of the Crop Rotation Act is “to maintain and improve ground and surface water quality . . .” So, how are we doing?

According to the Report of the Commission on the Lands Protection Act (p.28), from about 2001 to 2008 organic matter dropped Island-wide. At the start of the period, roughly two-thirds of the samples met the minimum level of three per cent. By 2008, only half were making the grade. Thatʼs not all. The same report (page 28 again) says fully one in four potato farms are not in compliance with the Crop Rotation Act. In other words, theyʼre breaking the law.
Historically, governments have been reluctant to prosecute offenders under the Crop Rotation Act. Maybe it seems like piling on to someone who already has plenty of troubles. Whatever the reason, going easy on offenders has the unintended consequence of discrediting the entire potato industry in the eyes of the public.

Learning the science of the water under our feet is just the beginning of the deep-well conversation. Our history with soil conservation proves that we have a lot to learn about putting environmental knowledge into practice. Until we do, thereʼs no reason to believe the potato industry can be trusted with our water.

Rob MacLean, Lewes

Subpages (1): April 2014