River Roundup: What’s Ruining our River This Week?

Climate change, climbing costs

The impact of climate change on the North continues to gouge people’s wallets as much as it is changing the landscape, this time amounting to a 13 per cent increase on NWT residents’ power bills. Turns out that the dryness that fueled the worst forest fire season in decades also led to record-low temperatures on the Snare River, responsible for powering the Snare hydro system. With water levels at their lowest since monitoring began at the site 50 years ago, the NT Power Corp. expects diesel will account for 30 per cent of power generation in the North Slave and Yellowknife region this year, meaning everyone in the Northwest Territories will have to pony up an extra 3.74 cents/kWh to make up the $20 million in costs over the next two years. With already the highest electricity costs in the country, this has caused justifiable outrage in the NWT. The Public Utilities Board has yet to review and decide on the Power Corp.’s application.

We’re #1!

“Oh Canada, our home…” and the first place finisher of forest decimation, worldwide? Indeed, new data released last week names Canada as the #1 culprit in global forest decline, knocking Brazil out of its long-kept top spot. The report measured global loss of intact, virgin forests, which are being lost at an alarming rate: more than 104 million hectares, or 8.1 per cent of the world’s undisturbed forests, have been lost since 2000. The majority of that pristine wilderness has been destroyed in Canada due to fires, logging and energy development. The data shows that boreal forest in the oilsands region between Fort McMurray and Lake Athabasca has been almost totally devastated. If loss continues at the same rate, the report concludes most of the remaining intact forests will be gone by the end of this century, which will have dramatic adverse impacts on biodiversity, climate and weather stability, as well as water and air quality.

NWT (still) wants a pipeline

Hey everyone, guess what! The NWT is open to hosting a pipeline of Alberta crude heading North! If you missed it the firstmilliontimes the territorial government loudly declared just how desperately open for business they are, even for the projects no one else wants, Premier Bob McLeod beat the dead horse once more last week by reiterating his willingness to pump what might not go through Northern Gateway until after 2018 north through the NWT. Many think the changing Arctic makes the option more feasible. But with years invested in its ‘Aboriginal relations’ agenda with First Nations along the pipeline route in B.C., it’s hard to imagine Enbridge would want to start that process up again any time soon with the people who brought down the Mackenzie pipeline project. The NWT MP has called the new report “diversionary.” Whatever it is, it sure sounds like pipe dreams to me.

Money-at-risk legislation?

Oil and gas lobbyists with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers proved once again they are willing to sacrifice endangered woodland caribou in the province of Alberta if it means companies will be able to turn another buck. An access to information request by Press Progress turned up a letter sent to federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq last November recommending amendments to the existing Species at Risk legislation that would see protections for critical habitat weakened and economic benefits considered when deciding whether or not to designate an animal as at-risk. The big oil lobby group previously hired its own biologists to delegitimize the population surveys for caribou undertaken by government scientists. CAPP defended its move on Facebook, saying its primary motive is that the legislation currently does not work.

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About Meagan

Meagan Wohlberg is editor of Northern Journal, a weekly news publication covering northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories. She lives in Fort Smith, NWT.
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