March 22, 2004

Ottawa, BC sign new environmental review co-operation accord

The federal and British Columbia governments have signed a new agreement on Environmental Assessment Co-operation. It replaces a similar five-year agreement, signed in 1997, which expired in April 2002 and was extended for an interim period. A draft of the new agreement was subject to public consultation for a 30-day review period from December 15, 2003 to January 14, 2004. The final version, incorporating public comments, was signed by federal Environment Minister David Anderson, and George Abbott, BC's Minister of Sustainable Resource Development.

As with its predecessor, the new bilateral agreement will provide a single, co-operative assessment for projects requiring review under both federal and provincial environmental assessment legislation. This streamlined process will enable the legal requirements of both governments to be met, while maintaining their existing respective roles and responsibilities. Both Ministers also noted that it will provide thorough, efficient environmental assessments of projects in a more timely and cost-effective manner for applicants.

In related activities, Anderson and Abbott recently announced that the Prince George Hart water supply improvement project has been certified under British Columbia's Environmental Assessment Act and does not require further assessment by a review panel or mediator under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The authorization certificate for the project was issued by BC Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection Bill Barisoff and BC Minister of Community, Aboriginal and Women's Services Murray Coell.

The BC Ministers have also issued a project approval certificate allowing the city of Prince George to proceed with work, subject to conditions. The project includes construction and operation of a groundwater collector well, two water transmission pipelines, access roads and ancillary works. The extraction capacity of the proposed facility, to be located on Fishtrap Island in the Nechako River, would be 34 million cubic metres per year. It is expected to be in service in October 2005.

The proposal underwent a joint review by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the BC Environmental Assessment Office. The federal and provincial Ministers concluded that the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, provided the mitigation measures outlined in the comprehensive study report are implemented. As a result of the decision, Anderson has referred the project back to Western Economic Diversification Canada and Infrastructure Canada, the federal responsible authorities, so that they can proceed with appropriate action.

More information is available from Claire Chippindale at the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, 613/957-0313, FAX 613/957-0946, E-mail, or from Graham Currie at the BC Environmental Assessment Office, 250/356-2862, FAX 250/387-9105, E-mail

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