Deep-water wells in province's hands

Steve Sharratt
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A farmer irrigates his field in western Queens County in this Guardian file photo.

A recommendation to lift the current moratorium on deep-water wells is headed to government following unanimous support by the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture.

The resolution by the largest agricultural organization in the province was approved in a closed-door session Friday afternoon and will seek the removal of a 10-year-old moratorium on deep-water wells for agricultural irrigation.

However, the resolution is two-fold, and insists the moratorium removal is based on quality science and a significant water management program to monitor the resource.

“The members gave support to the lifting of the moratorium for supplemental irrigation purposes provided the Department of Environment has the science to back such a step,’’ said P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture executive director John Jamieson. “Our members recognize water is a public resource and we are all concerned about groundwater.”

Controversy has spiked over the issue of providing permits to farmers who are seeking supplemental irrigation wells to make up for a lack of summer rainfall.

Jamieson said irrigation isn’t exclusive to potato farms and is sought by those in other horticultural activities from blueberries to flowers.

“Let’s keep in mind that these irrigation wells aren’t going to be turned on from May until harvest,’’ he said. “The irrigation is only needed for the few dry spots during the growing season.”

Last year, a lack of rainfall in the central areas of the province impacted everything from carrots to potatoes and farmers say opportunities to irrigate during those dry spells would have prevented crop loss.

The federation annual meeting held Friday heard from provincial watershed manager Bruce Raymond, who said there was ample water supply on P.E.I. and adequate recharge rates as well. However, despite strong water levels, Raymond said all regions of the province could experience different impacts depending on the amount of water extracted.

“The federation resolution also insists that a solid water-extraction policy is implemented and controls where wells are dug and how much is taken …

it would have to be resourced managed,’’ said Jamieson.

The resolution, along with others, was approved during a closed-door session of the meeting. In the past, federation resolutions have always been debated in an open session during the annual meeting.

Organizations: P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture.The, Department of Environment

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Recent comments

  • johnthames
    February 05, 2014 - 07:05

    At least Mr. Raymond was honest, but he should have added that he really doesn't know what the impacts will actually be because there is a high level of uncertainty being this has never been done and PEI has a very complex geology in terms of ground water movement. The fact is the Premier's ex-chief of staff has been lobbying on behalf of the Potato Board, which is just an extension of Irving/McCains. These groups and companies want larger potatoes for larger fries, and by making their demands they put at risk our deep water supply. The system is unbalanced. No one speaks for the public or environment, but there is lots of money and connected people pushing for deep water wells. If this goes ahead I can pretty well assure you our fossil ground water will become contaminated, meaning there will be no safe drinking water on PEI. There is just too much risk. Say no to this greedy proposal islanders, they don't need it, and we don't need the risk of permanent damage to our drinking water supplies.

  • don
    February 05, 2014 - 00:11

    can the department of environment and the farmers union give us a GUARANTEE in writing that this deep water wells that they want will NOT affect our drinking water? and when ghiz gives the ok and he will that when it is to late and we lose fresh water that they will step down of all power and in public admit that they screwed up? if they have the backbone and can GUARANTEE 110% we will not lose our water. and we all know they can not. but when PEI is in a drought and we have no fresh water will the farmers and sherry and ghiz supply us with the water we need "free"? NO. so farmers union and sherry put up or shut up.

  • A concerned farmer
    February 04, 2014 - 20:03

    The lifting of the moratorium is being pushed by the Potato Board and Cavendish Farms. The "science' they quote so often leaves more unanswered questions - even those "scientists" in the Dept of Environment do not know completely what the ramifications of more high capacity wells will be. Did the Potato Board poll its members on this matter? To see resolutions debated in closed door fashion for the first time recently at the FEd. of Agric. meeting implies to me that there must have been some serious discord and no doubt the resolution on the wells was in that category. Oh well, the Federation had no choice but to adopt the resolution to lift the moratorium as the Potato Board is part of the Federation. Should have reined in your crew before it got to this point, John Jamieson.

  • Remind me again
    February 04, 2014 - 19:14

    Why do we have a Mjnister of the Environment??

  • don
    February 04, 2014 - 15:16

    it is a done deal islanders say good bye to you fresh water. as money talks and we all know who owns most of the land and who owns a big part of this government and they will win. but when we no longer have clean water what will you do then as the big guy will close up shop and move back to NB? but if the farmers can give this in writing where they will leave streams alone, and do not water during the heat of the day only after the ground cools down, and no watering when it is raining. maybe it might work but we all know that will not work.

  • Steve
    February 04, 2014 - 14:04

    Potato farmers to Robert Ghiz: "Just remember, junior, that we give the PEI Liberal Party a LOT of money every year." Robert Ghiz to Potato farmers: "You bet, fellas. The wells are as good as done". Welcome to the world of environmental protection on PEI.

  • Stand Up Say No
    February 04, 2014 - 13:17

    We already have water problems. Deep water wells will take us in the wrong direction making the problems we already have even worse. It's infuriating to think that McCains and Cavendish Farms have the gall to even ask for a lift on the moratorium. Until they put some money and effort into repairing some the damage they've already done to our water supply we need to stand up and say NO! This needs to be stopped or they'll just keep pushing for more. They already want to add more pesticides for wireworms and now they're fumigating soil up west. If we allow this to happen there will be nobody to blame except those who sat a watched it happen.

  • Observer from the East
    February 04, 2014 - 12:35

    While I realize farming - and to be more specific, potato farming - is our largest industry here on PEI, I'm really not sold on lifting the moratorium. This "sound science" the PEIFA keeps harping on about - why is it rejected by leading biologists and scientists on the Island? Rumours are rife that many farmers arse also opposed to it. It sounds like Cavendish Farms and McCains are the ones really pushing for this. But at what cost? Until I get actual science and scientists claiming that lifting the moratorium will not affect us, I will not support this.

  • Bonshaw Hillbilly
    February 04, 2014 - 12:29

    Most of the water in our streams are fed by groundwater. If there is this giant untapped pond beneath us, why does the Winter River run dry ? If the city of Charlottetown is allowed to drain streams dry, whats to stop these deep wells from doing the same to the stream in your neck of the woods. If the potato board is so worried about dry years, such as last year, why did they say that for 2013 "Yields are generally close to average and the quality of the crop is particularly good this year” ? I am also concerned that the significant water management program mentioned will require significant resources from the government of PEI, thus we the taxpayers. Why should I pay to monitor wells so someone can increase their profit margin. Socialize the cost, privatize the profits. We all know the track record of potato production on PEI. Pesticide run-off and fish kills, silt-laden streams, and nitrates. Deep well irrigation will not improve but exacerbate those problems. Do we really need fresh water scarcity to go along with that ? These are a few of the concerns I and many Islanders have. The moratorium should not be lifted. Thank you.

  • Stewart Smith
    February 04, 2014 - 10:45

    Cavendish and McCain are the only groups pushing for this, so they can make more money. They even said as much. Everyone else, yes, even farmers, are saying NO. If industrial potato farming needs to get more and more environmentally damaging in order to survive, perhaps we should call it a day. Potatoes cost our health and environment way too much already.

  • leaveitalone
    February 04, 2014 - 10:12

    To Robert Ghiz: Please keep in mind that you and your family will also have to drink this cancer causing polluted water. Say no to deep wells for potato farmers.... for the sake of all islanders.

    • don
      February 04, 2014 - 15:20

      if you think ghiz and his family will stay on PEI after he loses the next election then you are in a dream world. and wes goes back to NB. and remember ghiz will be allowing fracking on PEI as money talks. enough said money over health.