January 29, 2007

PEI begins watershed planning process

Prince Edward Island residents are being asked to participate in forthcoming public consultations on protecting the province's water resources by managing land and water on a watershed basis. The consultations will be based on a new paper, A Guide to Watershed Planning on Prince Edward Island, released by PEI Premier Pat Binns and Minister of Environment, Energy and Forestry Jamie Ballem.

PEI has no fewer than 250 watersheds. This makes watershed planning essential for the island province, providing an opportunity for those who live and work in a watershed to collaborate in determining the environmental issues specific to their watershed, discussing possible solutions, and setting out a plan for the future of their watershed.

Ballem said the PEI Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) has been asked to carry out the public consultations. The EAC committee responsible for this task is co-chaired by Sherra Profit, a Summerside lawyer, and potato producer Elmer MacDonald of Augustine Cove. Other members are Dr Jim Kemp, a biology professor at the University of PEI, and Don Matheson, a Christmas tree grower from Oyster Bed Bridge. Dr Don Mazer, retired UPEI professor, will be facilitator for the public consultations and will help the committee prepare its report to the Minister of Environment, Energy and Forestry. The report is expected this spring. The EAC is appointed under the PEI Environmental Protection Act to advise the minister responsible on issues of environmental concern.

The following are the main issues to be considered during the consultation period.

- Priority environmental issues related to watersheds

PEI is the most densely populated province in Canada and has the highest percentage of non-forest land use. These factors can significantly affect the environment. Some of the environmental issues already of concern to PEI residents include an increase in nitrate levels in groundwater and surface water; siltation of streams and its impact on fish habitat; and closures in shellfish harvesting areas due to bacterial contamination. Participants will be asked to consider the main environmental issues in their watersheds, and the opportunities that exist for environmental improvement.

- Public support for community-led watershed planning and management, including the degree of potential for community-led watershed planning and management to address environmental issues.

- Level of financial support that would be necessary to implement watershed planning and management across PEI

- Suggestions on sources of funding for watershed planning and management.

- The amount and type of technical support required by watershed groups, which are typically volunteer organizations working on behalf of all watershed residents. Due to the technical nature of activities that need to be done, they often need advice and other assistance. It is worth noting that the Department of Environment, Energy and Forestry's watershed management section has watershed co-ordinators, posted throughout the province, who work closely with organizations and community groups involved in watershed planning, and conservation and enhancement projects.

The department also has a Watershed Management Fund that provides financial assistance and technical support to community-based watershed organizations involved in watershed planning and management, as well as groups carrying out habitat enhancement projects. Watershed groups also access funds from other federal, provincial and non-governmental programs.

- Structure and number of watershed groups, taking into account representation of residents and the fact that some of the Island's 250 watersheds are extremely small.

- Governance on a watershed basis, compared to the present system in which planning boundaries in PEI are organized around incorporated municipalities. This issue would consider whether authority for some decision-making should be transferred to watershed groups.

Five public meetings will be held the evenings of January 29, January 31, February 5, February 7 and February 13. Groups or individuals wishing to make a presentation at one of the meetings may register by calling 902/368-5044 (toll-free 1-866-368-5044). Groups must provide a written summary of their presentation (no more than three pages). All submissions will be posted on the consultation Web site, www.gov.pe.ca/go/watershedconsultations. The Guide to Watershed Planning on Prince Edward Island discussion document may also be viewed on this site. Written comments may be sent by E-mail to environment@gov.pe.ca or by regular mail to the Department of Environment, Energy and Forestry, Environmental Advisory Council Public Consultations, 11 Kent Street, PO Box 2000, Charlottetown, PEI, C1A 7N8. The deadline for written comments is February 14, 2007.

More information is available from Sandra Lambe at the Department of Environment, Energy & Forestry, 902/368-5286, E-mail selambe@gov.pe.ca.

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