Total E&P Joslyn Ltd. Joslyn North Mine Project

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1 139 Total E&P Joslyn Ltd. Joslyn North Mine Project Joint Hearing of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the Energy Resources Conservation Board Submission of Parks Canada Agency

2 2 140

3 INTRODUCTION Parks Canada Agency (PCA) has evaluated the Total E&P Joslyn Ltd. (Total) proposal to develop, construct and operate an oil sands mine known as the Total North Mine Oil Sands Project (Total Project). This submission summarizes PCA s concerns based on information provided by Total within its application to the Government of Canada and the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), the supplemental information provided in response to PCA s review comments and additional information submitted by Total throughout the environmental impact assessment (EIA) review process. If any new information is brought forward, the conclusions and recommendations provided in this submission may be reconsidered and amended accordingly. Without prejudice towards oil sands development or any particular developer, PCA continues to believe that the Athabasca River Delta (ARD) be considered as an appropriate valued ecosystem component (VEC) and that the regional study area (RSA) for aquatics, fisheries and hydrology for oil sands environmental assessments include the ARD. In that regard, PCA s submission focuses on its concerns related to the potential transboundary impacts and cumulative effects of the Project on Wood Buffalo National Park (WBNP), including the ARD and rationale to expand the RSA for aquatics, fisheries and hydrology. 2.0 PCA MANDATE The PCA fulfils its mandate through the management and administration of Canada s national heritage protected areas networks, which preserve and present the rich diversity of Canada s natural and cultural heritage to the benefit of Canadians and visitors from around the world. PCA derives its mandate from several pieces of legislation Parks Canada Agency Act; Canada National Parks Act; Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act; Historic Sites and Monuments Act; and the Species at Risk Act. In delivering this mandate, the Agency is also responsible for the development and implementation of policies, international agreements and related programs. The following describes specific relevant legislation and policies and conventions administered or adhered to by PCA that influenced the content of this submission. 2.1 Parks Canada Agency Act Parks Canada is an Agency of the federal Government, formally established under the Parks Canada Agency Act (1998, c.31). The mandate of the Parks Canada Agency is presented in this Act, and states: on behalf of the people of Canada, we protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage, and foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment in ways that ensure the ecological and commemorative integrity of these places for present and future generations. The Parks Canada Agency Act asserts it is in the national interest to carry out Canada s international obligations and agreements to protect, conserve and present that heritage and to contribute towards the protection and presentation of the global heritage and biodiversity. 2.2 Canada National Parks Act The Canada National Parks Act, passed in 2000, modernized Parks Canada s historic role and affirmed ecological integrity as the Agency priority when considering all aspects of national park 3

4 142 management. According to the Canada National Parks Act, ecological integrity means, with respect to a park, " a condition that is determined to be characteristic of its natural region and likely to persist, including abiotic components and the composition and abundance of native species and biological communities, rates of change and supporting processes." Ecological integrity is the endpoint for park management and ecosystem management is the process used to get there. 2.3 Parks Canada Guiding Principles and Operational Policies Parks Canada Guiding Principles and Operational Policies provide context for the management of park ecosystems including the collaboration with other land management agencies to develop a better understanding of the relationship between existing land use practices and their effects on the natural environment. In particular, section of the Guiding Principles and Operational Policies state that, Parks Canada will participate in environmental impact assessments for proposed developments outside national parks that may affect park ecosystems. 2.4 Ramsar Convention The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is an intergovernmental treaty adopted on 2 February The mission of the Ramsar Convention, as adopted by the Parties in 1999 and refined in 2002, is the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local, regional and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world. In 1982, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recognized that WBNP protected two wetland areas of international significance the PAD and the whooping crane nesting area. These areas were designated as Ramsar sites a designation by the Ramsar Convention which focuses on identification and protection of critical habitat for migratory birds and on areas of international significance in terms of ecology, botany, zoology, limnology or hydrology. WBNP is the only national park in Canada with two designated Ramsar sites. 2.5 United Nations Environmental, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (the Convention) was adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in Currently, 177 countries (known as States Parties ) have ratified the Convention, including Canada in The Convention established the World Heritage List as a means of recognizing that some places, either natural or cultural, are of sufficient importance to be the responsibility of the international community as a whole. By joining the Convention, States Parties pledge to care for World Heritage Sites in their territory and to avoid deliberate measures that could damage World Heritage Sites in other countries. As such, the World Heritage List serves as a tool for conservation. Parks Canada was designated in 1976 as the lead agency for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention in Canada. In 1983, Wood Buffalo National Park was added to the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. 2.6 Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) PCA is a Federal Authority (FA) pursuant to CEAA for the proposed Project. Subsection 12 (3) of the CEAA sets out PCA s responsibility as a FA as follows: Every federal authority that is in 4

5 143 possession of specialist or expert information or knowledge with respect to a project shall, on request, make available that information or knowledge to the responsible authority or to a mediator or a review panel. The scope of specialist or expert information or knowledge provided by PCA in this submission to the Panel is within our mandate as defined by the relevant legislation, policies and conventions administered or adhered to by PCA. 3.0 WOOD BUFFALO NATIONAL PARK WBNP spans the boundary of Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Encompassing an area of 44,807 square kilometres, WBNP is Canada s largest national park and the second largest national park in the world. WBNP was originally created in 1922 to protect the last free roaming herds of wood bison in Canada. The park was later identified as critical habitat for the endangered whooping crane and it continues to protect the only wild, self-sustaining population of whooping cranes in the world. WBNP attracts local, national and international visitors who wish to experience and learn about the unique cultures, landscapes and wildlife of the boreal region. Figure 1: WBNP (PCA 2010) 5

6 Peace-Athabasca Delta The PAD is located where the Peace, Athabasca and Birch rivers converge at the western end of Lake Athabasca. The PAD is one of the world s largest freshwater deltas and is a critical transboundary node in the Mackenzie River Basin. The PAD formed at the western end of Lake Athabasca, where the flows of the Peace, Athabasca and Birch Rivers join to form the Slave River. The PAD consists of three smaller deltas: the ARD (1,960 km2), the Peace River delta (1,680 km2), and the Birch River delta (168 km). Figure 2: PAD The PAD receives the waters of the Peace and Athabasca sub-basins, thereby draining 600,000 square kilometres of northern British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan before flows enter the NWT. Within the PAD complex itself are four large, shallow lakes (Claire, Baril, Mamawi and Richardson), numerous interconnected channels (both active and inactive) and countless small open water areas (PAD Technical Studies 1996). The majority of the PAD (80%) is located 6

7 145 within Wood Buffalo National Park; around 10% of the Delta includes Chipewyan Reserve 201 with the remaining land under provincial jurisdiction (Donald et al. 2004). The PAD is a very complex ecosystem and ecological conditions are naturally variable. Seasonal and annual variability in water levels create and maintain highly productive ecosystems. The PAD is one of the most diverse ecosystems within the province of Alberta, and all of Canada. Previous inventory work completed on the delta complex identified 11 different habitat types: aspen; water; emergents; mud flats; immature fen (meadow); sedge meadow; grass meadow; tall shrub; deciduous; coniferous; and rock outcrop. Combined, these eleven habitats contain over 250 species of vascular plants (Environment Canada 2001). The PAD is also home to a vast array of fauna; previous studies have found 227 species of birds (PCA 2010), 42 species of mammals, 20 species of fish and countless invertebrates (Adams 1998). The PAD is of particular importance to one avian species: the Whooping Crane. The expansive undisturbed grass and sedge meadows of the PAD are a sanctuary that provides habitat for the world s largest free-roaming and most genetically diverse herd of wood bison. WBNP protects the world s largest free-roaming herd of wood bison in the only place where the predator-prey relationship between wood bison and wolves has remained unbroken over time (PCA 2010). The PAD is also an important area for Aboriginal groups. Local people are reporting that changing plant communities, water levels and use by wildlife have affected their traditional use of, and connection to, the area (PCA 2010). The ARD consists of the Athabasca River and its four major distributary channels that bring water into Lake Athabasca and several other surrounding lakes and channels. These are the Embarras River, the Fletcher Channel, the Goose Island Channel and the Big Point Channel. The ARD is an area of significant sediment deposition, and an area in the RAMP focus study area that is considered to have the potential to be affected by long-term development (RAMP 2009). The ARD and Lake Athabasca also represent depositional environments characterized by fine sediments and shifting sands, where the deposition and re-distribution of sediments follow complex patterns. Ultimately, fine sediment particles and associated contaminants are transported via the Athabasca River to the ARD (Carey et al. 1997, NREI 2004, Hatfield 2006). On a seasonal basis, the elevation of the water across the PAD will vary greatly. During the late summer, fall, and winter months, water flows in a generally northward direction through the channels and into the Slave River. During the freshet period (spring and early summer) the flow of water can be reversed. This occurs when the water levels in the Peace River are higher than Lake Athabasca and water moves through the channels in a southerly direction (Dillon 2010). Figure 3 illustrates the general flow direction across the PAD including the ARD. 7

8 146 Figure 3: PAD Flow Directions The PAD is very sensitive to water levels and relies on a clean and ample supply of water to maintain its ecological integrity (Environment Canada 2005). Flooding of the Delta has already been compromised by climate-induced declines in spring snowmelt, and by the damping of spring flows on the Peace by Bennett Dam (Prowse et al. 2006). This has caused extensive losses of perched lakes, along with the muskrats, fish and waterfowl that supported the aboriginal communities (Green 1992). Consequently, even small changes in water level at high flow could further reduce the frequency, duration, and extent of flooding of the Delta, contributing even further to losses of ecological integrity (Environment Canada 2005). 3.2 Peace-Athabasca Delta Ecological Monitoring Program In 2008, PCA initiated the Peace-Athabasca Delta Ecological Monitoring Program (PADEMP) to develop an integrated aquatic monitoring program that can measure, evaluate and communicate the state of the PAD ecosystem including any changes to this ecosystem that result from cumulative regional development. The PADEMP will assist to better understand how the PAD may be influenced by regional industrial development from oil sands and hydroelectric 8

9 147 development, and climate change, and to develop a solid baseline for the PAD ecosystem against which future changes can be measured. Information generated through the PADEMP will also support policy, management and regulatory practices necessary to protect the ecological integrity of the PAD. Members of the PADEMP include First Nation, Métis Associations, the governments of Canada, Alberta and the Northwest Territories, and non-governmental organizations. Federal Departments currently participating in the PADEMP include Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Environment Canada and PCA. PCA continues to lead the PADEMP and the unique design of this ecological monitoring program will provide meaningful information at multiple spatial and temporal scales which can be more readily understood relative to assessing the ecological integrity of the PAD. The PADEMP also incorporates traditional ecological knowledge and western science. This will foster collaboration and cooperation, and inform the science of ecological monitoring and sustainable resource management. The PADEMP also builds upon the work and recommendations of previous cooperative programs such as the Northern River Basins Study, the Peace-Athabasca Delta Technical Studies and the Northern Rivers Ecosystem Initiative, and will complement existing regional monitoring efforts. 3.3 PAD Area Management Approach The area management approach identified in the WBNP Management Plan (PCA 2010) reflects Parks Canada s integrated mandate and its objectives address resource protection, visitor experience opportunities and public education. There are two area management approaches for WBNP: the PAD Area Management Approach and the Pine Lake Land Area Management Approach. An area management approach is written for a specific geographic location in a national park. These approaches present strategies for sections of the park that require more detailed direction beyond the general framework of the Park Management Plan. Each strategy provides a set of corresponding objectives and actions to provide concrete direction with measurable targets. The three objectives with respect to the PAD Area Management Approach include; (1) the PAD s ecological integrity and cultural value is better understood, improved and maintained, (2) Canadians feel a sense of stewardship and support for the PAD through increased awareness and (3) visitors feel a sense of connection through meaningful experiences to the delta s natural and cultural heritage. The PAD Area Management Approach addresses the challenges of maintaining, or in some cases improving, the delta s ecological integrity and cultural value. This work will be carried out in cooperation with Aboriginal partners, stakeholders, government and industry (PCA 2010). 4.0 REGIONAL INITIATIVES AND PLANNING PROCESSES PCA participates in various regional planning initiatives in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region to ensure PCA interests with respect to the ecological integrity of WBNP are considered in the development of management frameworks, environmental objectives and the implementation of adaptive management approaches to address regional cumulative environmental effects. The following describes the various regional planning initiatives PCA participates in, in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region. 9

10 Cumulative Environnemental Management Association (CEMA) CEMA is a multistakeholder regional forum that has undertaken the role to develop environmental management frameworks consistent with the intent of the Regional Sustainable Development Strategy. PCA (WBNP) is a member of CEMA s government caucus and participates in the following task groups and committees: i. Instream Flow Needs Technical Task Group (INFTTG) - The IFNTTG was formally created in 2006 from the IFN sub-group of the Surface Water Working Group. The IFNTTG was instructed to carry out two tasks; 1) to determine an instream flow needs (IFN) recommendation for the lower Athabasca River (LAR) and delta that would fully protect the aquatic ecosystem, and 2) to design a monitoring program through which, over time, it could be determined if the above objective of Task 1 was met. PCA (WBNP) was a member of the IFNTTG. ii. Phase 2 Framework Committee (P2FC) - Under CEMA, this multi-stakeholder committee considered the impacts of oil-sands water withdrawals on the aquatic ecosystem of the Lower Athabasca River and has recommended a water management framework Alberta Environment and Department of Fisheries and Oceans. This Phase 2 Water Management Framework prescribes when, and how much, water can be withdrawn from the Lower Athabasca River for cumulative oil sands mining water use. Aboriginal and public consultation will occur over the next year prior to approval and implementation of the water management framework. PCA participated in this committee. iii. Monitoring Technical Task Group (MTTG) Adaptive management and monitoring plans are proposed to address the data gaps, uncertainties and competing biological hypotheses that posed a challenge during the Phase 2 analysis (Ohlson et al 2010). PCA is a member of the MTTG and provided comment on the terms of reference developed for each study that will form part of the monitoring recommendation. The MTTG will be making recommendations regarding adaptive management and monitoring by fall Provincial Land-use Framework (LUF) The Provincial LUF sets out strategies for improving provincial land-use decision-making in Alberta. One of the strategies of the Provincial LUF is to develop regional plans based on landuse regions, and the Province identified the Lower Athabasca Regional Plan (LARP) as an immediate priority for development. The LARP intends to identify and set resource and environmental outcomes for air, land, water and biodiversity within management frameworks. Although the LARP does not apply to federal land and will not direct regulatory limits on federal land, PCA believes that the establishment of provincial outcomes and thresholds in the LARP have consideration for the protection of ecological integrity in WBNP. In that regard, PCA continues to participate as part of the federal contribution to this process to ensure PCA areas of interest are considered in the development of the LARP and management frameworks within. 5.0 PROJECT ANALYSIS PCA participated in the review of Total s EIA as per the Canada Alberta Agreement for Environmental Assessment Cooperation (2005). In particular, PCA provided supplemental information requests to the proponent in December 2006, via the joint advisory review teams. The supplemental information requests focussed on the potential for cumulative effects of the project on fisheries, aquatic ecological integrity, water quality, sediment quality in the PAD. 10

11 149 Since the PAD area is a potential sink for contaminants, and may experience cumulative effects over the long term, PCA believes the entire ARD should be included as part of the RSAs in all oil sands environmental assessments. The following analysis describes the RSA for Aquatic Resources, Fisheries and Hydrology considered by Total in its EIA. Rationale is provided to consider the ARD an appropriate VEC and the expansion of the RSAs to include the entire ARD. 5.1 Regional Study Area (RSA) The RSA for Aquatic Resources (Surface Water Quality, Sediment Quality, and Benthic Invertebrate) was defined as the upstream side by the confluence of the Ells River with the Athabasca River, at the northeastern corner of Athabasca Lease 24; and on the downstream side by the ARD (Hatfield 2006). The RSA for Hydrology was defined as the area in which the project and other development in the region affect surface water characteristics (NWHC 2005). The RSA for Fish and Fish habitat was defined as the portion of the Ells River watershed within the Joslyn Lease boundary and the Athabasca River from the confluence with the MacKay River downstream to the confluence with the Embarras River (Total 2010). The RSAs identified in the February 2010 Update remained similar to those used in the 2007 SI Project Update and as those presented in the response to June 2007 AENV SIR 2, Figure 2.2. (Total 2010). As such, the RSAs for Aquatic Resources included an eastern portion of the ARD. The Fisheries and Hydrology RSA considered by Total in its EIA and Project Update did not include the ARD. Figure 3 shows Figure 2.2 from the June 2007 AENV SIR 2. Figure 4: RSAs 11

12 Northern Rivers Ecosystem Initiative (NREI) The NREI left a legacy of knowledge and awareness of the environment of the northern river basins, providing a foundation for a sustainable environment. Since the conclusion of the NREI, several other oil sands projects and industrial development have been proposed and are now in the application process for the Athabasca Region. The NREI: Key Findings (EC 2004) stated that Oil sands operations continue to expand. They have a major impact on the land and may impact water resources in the future. Expansion of the RSAs to include the ARD is essential to consider the impacts of oil-sands water withdrawals on the ecosystem of the Lower Athabasca River and the ARD. Inclusion of the ARD, including side channels and tributaries of the Lower Athabasca River, lakes and wetlands in the ARD, would improve overall scientific knowledge and understanding about potential environmental impacts to the complex ecosystems as a result of oil sands development, since the conclusion of the NREI. 5.3 Regional Aquatic Monitoring Program (RAMP) RAMP has identified the ARD as an area of significant deposition and an area that is considered to have the potential to be affected by long-term development in the oil sands area (RAMP 2005, RAMP 2009). In addition, the ARD is a true depositional environment, the ultimate receiver of particulates from the oil sands region and an area of local community concern regarding environmental quality (RAMP 2005). Inclusion of the entire ARD in the RSAs will support the effective implementation of RAMP monitoring activities so that long-term trends, regional issues and potential cumulative effects related to oil sands development can be identified and assessed. 5.4 Phase 2 Water Management Framework under the Cumulative Effects Management Association During development of the Phase 2 Water Management Framework, a number of environmental uncertainties were identified. An adaptive management program and monitoring plan is proposed to address the data gaps, uncertainties and competing biological hypotheses that posed a challenge during the Phase 2 analysis (Ohlson et al 2010). The uncertainties, knowledge gaps and competing biological hypotheses that were central to the planning process discussions and supporting analyses leading to the Water Management Framework recommendations are identified in Table 1. Table 1 List of key topics identified for detailed monitoring plan design (Ohlson et al 2010) 12

13 151 Two topics that were highlighted by some stakeholders as particularly important include the biotic response to low flows and mesohabitat in the Athabasca delta. Detailed technical monitoring plan designs will be developed by the MTTG in 2010 to address each topic area. The key uncertainties and knowledge gaps identified through the planning process discussions and analyses leading to the Phase 2 Water Management Framework recommendations include: i. Hydrology of the lower Athabasca River - The hydrology information base for the lower Athabasca River has long been recognized as insufficient. The current primary inputs to the flow record, and the data used to model main stem river flows, are provided by the Fort McMurray gauge. Uncertainties exist at this site and these uncertainties are compounded for sites downstream. Additional gauging on the river and improved hydrologic measurements under ice are required to improve the accuracy of hydrologic models, improve the assessment methods for examining water management alternatives, and improve understanding of long-term trends in river flow (e.g., response to climate change) (Ohlson et al 2010). ii. Hydrology of the Athabasca Delta - The ability to predict the impact of water management alternatives on the hydrology of the Athabasca Delta is very limited. The applied River1D flow routing model of the upper PAD (R1DRM) is based on minimal channel geometry and flow distribution data and it should therefore only be considered at this stage as a good beginning towards understanding the hydraulics of the delta. Additional surveys and corresponding further model enhancements were recommended should it be necessary to assess dry or frozen to bed channel scenarios in more detail. Also additional bathymetry in un-surveyed areas and flow distribution measurements at a broader range of discharges in both summer and winter should enhance and improve the present model (Ghamry et al 2009a). iii. Hydrologic connections to key lakes and channels in the Athabasca Delta - The potential effect of water withdrawals on the frequency and duration of physical connections between water bodies (including perched basins) in the Athabasca Delta is a key information gap when considering the impact of water management alternatives. The current Phase II Water Management Framework assessment has only considered whether the frequency of connectivity is impacted by water withdrawals and not potential effects on the quantity of water moving into basins during high flows (periods when connectivity exists). Additional work would be required to quantify potential reductions in quantity of flow into the complex delta environment (open, restricted and perched basins) considering that the cumulative annual water withdrawals are large (Ghamry et al 2009b). iv. The biotic importance of aquatic mesohabitat in the Athabasca Delta - Flow modelling indicates that many of the assessed water management alternatives strongly affect the abundance of mesohabitats in the delta. The biological impact from these habitat changes is unknown. The IFNTTG recommended that sensitivity of mesohabitat to flow changes in the delta further studied within the next one to two years (Paul and Locke 2009). Modeling of fish habitat response to withdrawals indicates that fish habitat is less sensitive to assessed alternatives, but it is unknown whether other important biological components rely on the affected mesohabitats. The key knowledge gap relates to how water withdrawals in the mainstem of the Athabasca River affect the ecological health of the river and delta (Ohlson et al 2010). v. Abundance of aquatic mammals in the delta in relation to flow in the lower Athabasca River - The conditions under which water withdrawals from the mainstem Athabasca River affect 13

14 152 the ecological health of the river and delta is uncertain. A key component of the delta s ecological health is the production of aquatic mammals, such as beavers and muskrats. The extent to which the abundance of beaver and muskrat may change in response to water withdrawals is unknown (Ohlson et al 2010). The focus of a recent study (Andrishak and Hicks 2010) was to develop a one-dimensional (1-D) hydrodynamic network model of the Athabasca Delta, to enable assessment of various anthropogenic water withdrawal schemes on the flow distributions among the major Athabasca Delta distributary channels. In this study, a flow routing model was applied to determine how a withdrawal of 20m3/s would affect Athabasca lake level and outflow, as well as the frequency of flow cut-off to any of the four main distributary channels in the ARD. According to this study, imposing a 20m3/s water demand increased the total occurrences of a no-flow condition in the Fletcher Channel, analogous to it freezing to the bed, by 53%. Although the average duration of these conditions is reduced (because more frequent, shorter occurrences are introduced), the 53% increase in total occurrences may significantly impact the winter fish habitat in this area (Andrishak and Hicks 2010). This study further noted that the accuracy of these estimates is expected to be influenced by the extent of the un-surveyed reaches, and as additional cross section surveys are completed in those reaches, further improvements and refinements can be made. Inclusion of the entire ARD in the RSAs would support the adaptive management program and monitoring plans proposed to address the data gaps, uncertainties and competing biological hypotheses that posed a challenge during the Phase 2 Water Management Framework analysis. 5.5 Aquatic Ecosystem Health Assessment To address information gaps and support implementation of the Water for Life strategy, Alberta Environment released a report titled Information Synthesis and Initial Assessment of the Status and Health of Aquatic Ecosystems in Alberta: Surface Water Quality, Sediment Quality and Non-fish Biota (North/South 2007). This Report summarizes current knowledge about Alberta's major basins and key water bodies, focusing on water quality, sediment quality, and non-fish biota. The assessment draws from data in written reports and other sources spanning the 1980s to It provides an overview of current knowledge for major basins, an initial assessment of aquatic ecosystem health based on published information, and it identifies gaps and provides recommendations for future more comprehensive monitoring. The Report's assessment found that the PAD has recently undergone substantial study but at this time it is not possible to assess aquatic ecosystem health in this large, complicated system. The Report also noted that the data quality/quantity on water quality, water quantity, non-fish biota was rated as poor, for an initial aquatic ecosystem health assessment in the PAD. Further, an initial qualitative assessment of aquatic ecosystem health based on a synthesis of available data was rated as insufficient data for the PAD. Inclusion of the entire ARD in the RSAs for oil sands environmental assessments would increase the data quality/quantity on water quality, water quantity, non-fish biota and support the developments of a PAD aquatic ecosystem health assessment under the Water for Life Strategy. 14

15 PCA CONCLUSION PCA remains concerned about the potential cumulative environmental impacts on the PAD ecosystem as a result of oil sands, hydroelectric and overall industrial development within the Peace-Athabasca-Slave drainage basin. The Joint Panel acknowledged the importance of the PAD and Lake Athabasca in the Joint Panel Report for the Muskeg River Mine Expansion (EUB 2006). The report entitled Changing Currents: Water Sustainability and the Future of Canada's Natural Resource Sectors (NRTEE 2010) states that the Mackenzie River Basin is affected by the upstream development of oil sands on the Athabasca River and the Bennett Dam on the Peace River, and could be further impacted if proposals for hydroelectric development move forward on the Slave River (NRTEE 2010). PCA will continue to participate in the development of EIA terms of reference towards ensuring our environmental information needs are met, pursuant to the Canada-Alberta Agreement for Environmental Assessment Cooperation (2005). This will further enable and support overall federal provincial cooperation in the delivery of environmental assessment in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region. PCA believes that geographic boundaries used in cumulative environmental effects should be based on all resources of concern and all of the actions that may contribute, along with the project effects, to cumulative impacts. The selection of geographic boundaries should be, whenever possible, based on the natural boundaries of resources of concern that the proposed actions may impact, even beyond the project life. A VEC is defined as any part of the environment that is considered important by the proponent, public, scientists and government involved in the assessment process and may be determined on the basis of cultural ideals or scientific concern (Hegmann et al 1999). PCA believes the ARD should be considered as an appropriate VEC in environmental assessments in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region. Identifying the ARD as a VEC and inclusion of the entire ARD in the RSAs is necessary to evaluate the cumulative environment effects on the ARD ecosystem, assist in addressing data gaps and uncertainties identified in regional planning processes and to support adaptive management in environmental assessment of industrial development in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region. This would also complement the design and implementation of regional monitoring programs including RAMP, Phase 2 Water Management Framework technical monitoring plans and PADEMP. Lastly, this would contribute scientific knowledge and understanding towards the overall protection and presentation of the ecological integrity of the PAD. In that regard, PCA recommends the ARD should be included as a VEC and that the RSAs for Fisheries, Hydrology and Surface Water Quality be expanded to include the entire ARD for environmental assessments in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region. PCA recommends that the JRP make these a requirement for environmental assessments in the Athabasca Oil Sands Region. 15

16 154 REFERENCES Adams, Stuart Fort Chipewyan Way of Life Study Final Report. Stuart Adams and Associates, Planning Consultants Limited, Vancouver, BC. Alberta Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) Decision : Albian Sands Energy Inc., Application to Expand the Oil Sands Mining and Processing Plant Facilities at the Muskeg River Mine. Report of the Joint Review Panel Established by the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board and the Government of Canada. Andrishak, R and F. Hicks Ice Effects on Flow Distributions within the Athabasca Delta, Canada. Carey, J.H., O.T.R. Cordeiro and B.G. Brownlee Distribution of contaminants in the water, sediment and biota in the Peace, Athabasca and Slave River Basins: Present levels and predicted future trends. Northern River Basins Study synthesis report, ISSN ; no. 3. Donald, D.A., W. Aitken, J. Syrgiannis, N.E. Glozier, F.G. Hunter, and M.R. Gilchrist State of the Aquatic Environment Peace-Athabasca Delta In: Environment Canada, Northern Rivers Ecosystem Initiative: Collective Findings (CD-ROM). Environment Canada Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands #7: Peace-Athabasca Delta, Alberta. Environment Canada: Northern Rivers Ecosystem Initiative: Key Findings, Northern Rivers Ecosystem Initiative, Edmonton, AB, with Alberta Environment. Environment Canada Quenching the Peace Athabasca Delta. Fact Sheet. Ghamry, Shatford and Locke. 2009a. Evaluation Criteria for Connectivity of Distributaries in the Lower Athabasca River (Fletcher Channel) Segment 1. Prepared for the Instream Flow Needs Technical Task Group. Ghamry, Shatford and Locke. 2009b. Evaluation Criteria for Connectivity of Perched Basins in the Lower Athabasca River Segment 1. Prepared for the Instream Flow Needs Technical Task Group. Green, J.E A Preliminary Assessment of the Effects of the WAC Bennett Dam on the Athabasca River Delta and the Athabasca Chipewyan Band. Prepared for the Athabasca Chipewyan Band as an Information Document to the Department of Justice and the Office of Native Claims. Athabasca Chipewyan Band, Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, Canada. Hatfield Consultants Deer Creek Energy Ltd. Joslyn North Mine Project Aquatic Resources Environmental Impact Assessment: Surface Water Quality, Sediment Quality, and Benthic Invertebrate Communities Prepared for: Millennium EMS Solutions Ltd. Hegmann, G., C. Cocklin, R. Creasey, S. Dupuis, A, Kennedy, L. Kingsley, W. Ross, H. Spaling and D. Stalker Cumulative Effects Assessment Practitioners Guide. Prepared by AXYS Environmental Consulting Ltd. and the CEA Working Group for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. Hull, QC. 16

17 155 North West Hydraulic Consultants (NWHC) Hydrology Assessment for North Mine Deer Creek Energy Project (Prepared for JDEL Associates Ltd.). National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), Changing Currents: Water Sustainability and the Future of Canada s Natural Resource Sectors. NREI (Northern River Ecosystem Initiative) Northern river ecosystem initiative - synthesis report. Environment Canada, Hull, QC, ISBN North/South Consultants Inc Information Synthesis and Initial Assessment of the Status and Health of Aquatic Ecosystems in Alberta: Surface Water Quality, Sediment Quality and Non-fish Biota. Prepared for Alberta Environment. Paul, A. and A. Locke Evaluation Criteria for Flow Alterations in the Lower Athabasca River Abundance and Diversity of Mesohabitat. Prepared for the Instream Flow Needs Technical Task Group. Phase 2 Framework Committee Report Volume 2: Technical Appendix Ohlson, D., G. Long, & T. Hatfield, Phase 2 Framework Committee Report Fort McMurray: Cumulative Effects Management Association. Parks Canada Agency (PCA), Wood Buffalo National Park of Canada: Management Plan. Peace-Athabasca Delta Technical Studies (PAD Technical Studies) Final Report. Fort Chipewyan, Alberta. Prowse, T.D., S. Beltaos, J.T. Gardner, J.J. Gibson, R.J. Granger, R. Leconte, D.L. Peters, A. Pietroniro, L.A. Romolo and B. Toth Climate change, flow regulation and land-use effects on the hydrology of the Peace-Athabasca-Slave system; findings from the Northern River Ecosystem Initiative, Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 113: Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP) RAMP 2004 Technical Report. Section 1: 2004 RAMP monitoring program. Prepared for the RAMP Steering Committee. Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP) RAMP 2009 Technical Report. Prepared for the RAMP Steering Committee. Total E&P Joslyn Ltd Integrated Application and Supplemental Information: updated February

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