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Worries Over River Utilization and Alberta Oilsands Development

by admin ~ February 5th, 2007

Water quality and river levels have First Nations worried over future of oilsands development in northern Alberta. “When our people go visit their fish nets or harvest their waterfowl they’re definitely seeing a problem with the water,” said Dehcho Grand Chief Herb Norwegian to the CBC. In recent news, the U.S. asked for a five fold increase in production from Alberta oilsands (CBC), and Canadian representatives offered assurances to China of increases in production (Globe and Mail). A watchdog agency set up in the 1990s to monitor oilsands development has yet to set targets for how much development can take place without permanent damage to the environment (CBC). First Nations met in Fort McMurray last week to discuss options, and asked for a moratorium on further development and new projects. Elders told of reduced water levels and significant impacts on game and habitat. The water used in oilsands production comes from the Athabasca River, and flows into Lake Athabasca and northward via the Slave and Mackenzie Rivers to the Arctic Ocean. Scientists have seen a 30% reduction in water levels in the Athabasca River due to warming trends, reduced glacial runoff, and human use of the river (U of A), and this year saw record lows in the Slave River, which draws its water from Lake Athabasca (CBC). Such trends have communities utilizing these rivers for livelihood and cultural purposes asking for new regulations and mitigation of environmental impacts.


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