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News Brief
October 22, 2014
Is Canada prepared to meet the challenges of the future?

Earlier this month, the Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (the "Report") was released. This Report is the first issued by Julie Gelfand, the recently appointed Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development.


Several important questions are posed in the Report (page 1). Are federal departments prepared to meet the challenges of the future? Are federal departments gathering sufficient information to manage the environmental and social risks that economic development can bring? And if so, are they acting on this information to reduce these risks?


 Read more on the ELC blog.    

Does a flood mitigation "dry dam" require an environmental assessment? 

This question was raised at the Oldman Watershed Council Annual General Meeting. The "dry dam" proposed for the Elbow River is no small deal. It could be the same type of towering concrete wall that contains permanent reservoirs except that it would usually sit empty. If it is allowed to remain full for long enough to reduce flooding downstream then it might kill the underlying vegetation. The photo of a mountain valley turned into a dustbowl by a similar project elsewhere was one of the more striking images at the meeting.


To figure out whether an environmental impact assessment (EIA) is required you need to find out the height of the dam and how much water it would hold.  A provincial assessment is required for a dam greater than 15 metres in height when measured to the top of the dam "from the natural bed of the watercourse at the downstream toe of the dam." If the dam isn't across a watercourse then the measurement is from "the lowest elevation at the outside of the dam." A provincial assessment is also required for a water reservoir with a capacity over 30 million cubic metres no matter how high the dam is.


Read more on the ELC blog. 

Update on the MGA Review: Government releases first What We Heard document


As indicated in previous posts, the Alberta government is currently reviewing the Municipal Government Act (MGA). Given the key role that municipalities play in the management and protection of Alberta's environment, we have participated in this review by making  written submissions. Ultimately, we would like to see the MGA amended to require and empower municipalities to manage and protect the local environment.


At the end of July, the government released its first  What We Heard document summarizing public and technical consultations held from February to April of this year. This document organizes concerns raised during consultations into 54 policy issues. While several of these policy issues are relevant to environmental matters, there is little discussion of environmental concerns in the What We Heard document. The government has indicated that additional documents will be issued throughout the summer and fall summarizing the workbook and written submissions (these will be available on the MGA Review website).


Read more on the ELC blog.   

Leah Orr
Communications Coordinator

You can strengthen environmental decision-making in Alberta.  



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