Fishermen share concerns over deep-water wells

Teresa Wright
Published on November 4, 2014

Representatives from the P.E.I. Fishermen's Association Steven LaPierre, right, and Peter Boertien share their concerns about deep-water wells with the legislative committee on agriculture and the environment. The PEIFA told the committee Tuesday it wants the moratorium on the wells to remain in place. Guardian photo.

©THE GUARDIAN/Heather Taweel

The P.E.I. Fisherman’s Association is adding its voice to the chorus of concerned citizens and groups who want the provincial government to keep in place the moratorium on deep-water wells.

Representatives from the PEIFA appeared Tuesday morning before a legislative committee in Charlottetown, which has heard testimony from over 50 organizations, advocacy groups and individuals on the controversial issue of high capacity wells.

Bobby Jenkins, vice president of the PEIFA, said fishermen are concerned over a push by the agriculture industry to lift the current moratorium on any new deep wells for agricultural irrigation.

The PEIFA was reluctant to come out against deep-water wells.

“We didn’t want to be portrayed as coming out against the agriculture community,” Jenkins explained.

“We realize they have a tough job too and they’re trying to make a living the same as fishermen are.”

Fishermen in P.E.I. are concerned about a variety of effects that lifting the moratorium on the wells could have on groundwater and waterways across the Island.

Jenkins said these concerns are focused on the potential effects on the Island’s fisheries, but also on the general impacts an influx of new wells could have on all Islanders.

“We have lobster larvae right at the mouth some of these estuaries right where the salt and fresh water mix, so we’re concerned on that department, and obviously everybody on P.E.I. is concerned over drinking water.”

Debate over whether to allow farmers to drill deep wells so they can irrigate their crops when the rain doesn’t fall has been brewing on for months in P.E.I.

Environmental advocates say they worry the wells could deplete the province’s groundwater levels if used for industrial farming.

Groundwater is the province’s only source of drinking water.

Cavendish Farms president Robert Irving told the same legislative committee last June that P.E.I. potatoes are not meeting consistency standards required by the french fry industry.

He said Cavendish Farms may be forced to downsize its operations and investments in P.E.I. if the government does not lift its moratorium on deep-waterwells, a move that could have devastating impacts on P.E.I.’s important agriculture sector.

On Tuesday, committee chair Paula Biggar told the PEIFA its concerns would be noted, as will those of the numerous other groups and individuals, in the committee’s report to be presented later this month in the legislature.

She also noted the province is currently developing a water act, which could also help to address some of the concerns the fishermen raised.

The Guardian was told an announcement on this upcoming water act would be coming later this month. Public consultations are expected to be part of this new legislation.