Recent Freshwater Alliance Posts
Earlier this year, we asked our freshwater community to fill out a survey so we could learn more about you, what you’re doing, and what kinds of supports will best help you to meet your goals.
We thought we’d report the results of that survey so you too can learn about your freshwater peers and so we can publicly respond to your feedback.
This piece is a guest blog by author, explorer, and trail builder Hap Wilson as part of our series weaving together the cultural, environmental, and historic significance of Canada’s navigable waters.
It is the duty of the federal government to protect the public right of all Canadians to navigate waterways in a fair and transparent manner. This sole authority over navigation is granted under Section 91(10) of the Canadian Constitution.
One hundred years ago, the Privy Council established the “floating canoe” test for navigability -this protected the public's right to navigate any waterway that could literally float a canoe. This definition included not only known navigable waters, but the future use of ‘potential’ waterways.
In 2012, this was all flushed down the toilet in order to placate the avaricious demands of corporate interests. Yet, we were getting it all wrong even before those century-old rules were cut-down behind closed doors.
The Water Sustainability Act (WSA) came into force on February 29, 2016 with a promising framework to advance healthy, functioning and well-managed watersheds across the province.
For the Act to stand up to the challenges facing B.C. waterways, it needs strong policies and regulations for legs. The Province has been working on this - most recently asking for public input on proposed policy changes to livestock watering practices.
Ranchers rely on accessible water sources and storage for livestock raising operations. To get access to water, ranchers may divert water from streams, build groundwater or reservoir dugouts, or go through a utility. On the other hand, ensuring that agricultural waste is kept out of streams and drinking water sources, that water quality is protected and water quantity reserved for stream flow, are all essential for human and ecosystem health.
So how far do the proposed changes go to improve livestock watering policies for the benefit of aquatic ecosystems, water users, livestock, and the agricultural sector?
Recently announced federal legislation must go further
OTTAWA - Environmental groups are calling on the Canadian government to fully restore legal protections for navigable waters. Bill C-69, which includes the newly proposed Canadian Navigable Waters Act, introduced in the House of Commons on February 8, broadens some protections for navigable waterways, but does not fully restore what was lost.
There are a few important items that you may have missed in last weeks 341 page environmental omnibus Bill C-69. To date, the majority of the public coverage on the Bill has been around environmental assessment and energy regulation. But anyone who is a recreational water enthusiast or concerned about environmental flows, has an interest in the third part of the act that amends navigation protection (which protects waterways from obstructions). Here we’ve broken down some of the big changes.
Tip for readers: Our analysis of this Bill and all its implications is ongoing and we will post our analysis as well as key asks in the weeks and months ahead as we track this Bill in Ottawa through the House of Commons. For a snapshot, check out the TL;DR (too long; didn’t read).
Why amendments must go beyond restoring what was lost
The 2012 amendments to the Navigable Waters Protections Act (NWPA) stripped protections from 99% of waters by eliminating environmental assessment requirements and narrowing federal government oversight to an exclusive list or Schedule under the Navigation Protection Act (NPA). This meant that approvals for projects on scheduled waters would not trigger a look at environmental impacts. By reducing federal oversight to a short-list of waters on the schedule the vast majority of our lakes and rivers lost regulatory protection. For the majority of waters, the public right to navigation was left to the public to defend in court.
A look at proposed amendments
1. New definition for navigable waters
The proposed Canadian Navigable Waters Act (CNWA) adds clarity to decision making with a definition for navigable waters. Though the definition (pictured below) extend protections beyond the schedule to provide federal oversight for large developments on publicly accessible waterways, it is narrower than the canoe test.