Kootenay-Columbia lakes and rivers win protections

“This is an important step to protect our lakes and rivers,” Wayne Stetski said.

Wayne Stetski in standing in front of the Columbia River near its headwaters.

Wayne Stetski in standing in front of the Columbia River near its headwaters. — Photo courtesy Wayne Stetski

Navigable lakes and rivers across Kootenay-Columbia will receive blanket protections under new legislation that was introduced after MP Wayne Stetski tabled his own bill on the subject.

“I am pleased that the government has chosen to introduce a new mechanism for protecting our cherished lakes and rivers,” Stetski said. “While the bill uses a different approach than the one I suggested in my private members bill C-385, I am hopeful that the results will be the same.”

Stetski introduced bill C-385 on November 29, 2017. It would have relisted Kootenay Columbia’s navigable lakes and rivers in the schedule of protected waters in the Navigable Waters Act. Those waters, and most of the other navigable waters across Canada, were removed from the schedule by the Harper Conservative government in 2014 because they saw the protections as possible barriers to pipelines and industrial developments.

By putting the waters back into the schedule, Stetski’s bill would have meant that new dams, bridges, and other major and minor works, as well as dumping, would have required a federal permit.

The government’s new Bill C-69 provides a new environmental assessment process and includes a new mechanism for protecting navigable waters. Rather than putting all of them back into a schedule, Bill C-69 protects navigable waters by creating two groups. The lakes and rivers in the schedule still require a permit for “major works” such as dams, bridges, commercial piers, dumping, etc, as well as for “minor works” such as a cottage dock. All of the non-scheduled lakes and rivers also require a permit for major works, but minor works do not require a permit. However, there is an appeals and resolution process in the event there are objections to minor works.

“This is an important step to protect our lakes and rivers,” Stetski said. “It is a reversal from the actions taken by the former Conservative government, and it helps protect our lakes and rivers from damaging development or dumping.”

“Our environment, culture, economy and agriculture are dependent on water; lakes and rivers are central to our way of life in Kootenay-Columbia” Stetski said. “I am proud to have played a role in protecting them for generations to come.”

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