October 3, 2005

BC MOT levied $46K penalty for Fisheries Act violations

KELOWNA, BC-The British Columbia Ministry of Transportation (MOT) pleaded guilty last week to two charges under the federal Fisheries Act in connection with the release of a deleterious substance into Pennask Creek. The Ministry was fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $45,000 to the federal Environmental Damages Fund for use in rehabilitation of the Pennask watershed. The MOT has also been ordered to conduct a continuing water quality monitoring program in the area. The charges stem from the exposure of a rock formation, containing high levels of pyrite, near Pennask Summit during construction of Highway 97C (known as the Okanagan Connector) between 1987 and 1990. This exposure resulted in significant acid rock drainage into an unnamed tributary and then into Pennask Creek, one of BC's most important trout-bearing streams. A 2001 report commissioned by the MOT estimate the annual value in fish production in this system at $30 million. Ten charges under subsection 36(3) of the Fisheries Act were originally laid against the Ministry in May 2004; eight were subsequently stayed by the Crown.

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