DAWSON CREEK, B.C. – An enforcement operation has reviewed 49 water storage structures, including dugouts and dams to protect the Kiskatinaw River watershed.
The reason is to ensure that the diversion of water and the construction of dams comply with the Water Sustainability Act, states the press release made by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. Eight investigations resulting from this work are still underway.
The Kiskatinaw River Watershed is the source of drinking water for the city’s residents and the reason the primary focus of this enforcement operation is on dugouts and dams associated with the watershed. As this watershed is subject to periodic droughts, and the waterway’s erratic flow patterns make it challenging to manage the water supply and ecosystem health.
The press release goes on to share in 2017, natural resource officers worked with provincial dam safety officers and water specialists to complete 192 aerial assessments of dams and other water impoundments in northeast British Columbia. A preliminary analysis indicated that some of those structures needed to be evaluated more closely to determine whether any contraventions of natural resource legislation had occurred.
Over the summer and fall of 2018, natural resource officers conducted a thorough review of 49 structures. This work included educating property owners about their legal obligations regarding the Water Sustainability Act, conducting inspections and gathering information about any suspected violations. The officers then initiated investigations and took enforcement action where warranted. The goal was to stop the diversion of water and construction of dams that had not been authorized under the act and its associated regulations.
Results of the review shown in the release:
- Forty-two inspections were completed. Some of the inspections included more than one dugout or other water structure. The purpose of an inspection is to verify compliance with natural resource legislation.
- Eight investigations are underway. An inspection can lead to a formal investigation if a natural resource officer believes that an offence has been committed under the Water Sustainability Act.
- One warning ticket has been issued to date (related to the diversion, storage or use of water).
- Four violation tickets have been issued to date (related to unauthorized changes made in or around a waterway), with total fines amounting to $920.
- Most of the remaining open investigations are expected to be completed in the spring of 2019 and may result in additional enforcement actions or penalties.
- Monetary penalties for offences under the Water Sustainability Act can run as high as $1 million for each offence and as much as $1 million for each day the offence continues.
- If a person is convicted of an offence under the Water Sustainability Act, the court may also impose a fine equal to the court’s estimation of the monetary benefit received by that person as a result of committing the offence.
The release shares a key goal of this enforcement operation was to educate people about water storage, water use and the need to obtain authorization from the government before diverting streams or groundwater. Most of the people who spoke with the natural resource officers were co-operative and appreciated the officers’ efforts to help manage water resources in the area.
The officers took every available opportunity to discuss water-related legislation with landowners, water sellers and industrial users in the region. They explained their obligations under the Water Sustainability Act and related natural resource legislation — including water rights and licensing requirements for non-domestic groundwater users.
To date, only the most significant of the water diversion and impoundment activities in the northeast region have been inspected. Further compliance inspections — and, where necessary, enforcement actions — are planned in this region and elsewhere.
Dugouts are human-made structures on the landscape where the earth has been moved to create holes or depressions. Water from streams, groundwater, rainwater and water from snowmelt accumulate in these areas and is stored for later use.
Potential uses for this water may include;
- drinking water for people
- fire prevention or fire response
- drinking water for livestock
- industrial activities (including those in the energy and mining sector)
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