June 1st, 2016 ~ Vol. 85 No. 21
Riversdale Resources public update
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Photo:By Keith McClary (Own work)
[CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Grassy mountain coal seam.
Pass Herald Reporter
Last year, Benga Mining, a subsidiary of Riversdale Resources, filed applications for provincial and federal approval of the Grassy Mountain Coal Mine project. The application package included an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

On Jan. 25, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) informed Riversdale Resources that the impact assessment was incomplete. The review process was paused until the deficiencies identified were addressed.

The document, now available on the AER website, said that the mine site and coal processing plant applications remain under review. It outlined 24 areas where the impact assessment fell short.

In some cases terms used in the EIA were unclear or incomplete. In other cases the AER said there wasn’t enough information.

The document outlined data gaps on the impact the mine could have on the community’s fisheries. Riversdale needs to supply more data on the anticipated changes in biodiversity and impact on regional ecosystems that the mine project will have as well as more specific scientific data and discussion revolving around living organisms.
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On May 25, Riversdale Resources updated council on the Grassy Mountain Coal Project and said the EIA would be resubmitted on July 29.
“We’re about seven months delayed,” said Riversdale’s community liaison Keith Bott.

Cal Clark, Riversdale’s manager of sustainable development, said the resubmitted EIA would not include data on the community’s fisheries including information on the fish populations of Blairmore and Gold Creeks.

“We have a plan to submit that data post EIA update,” said Clark. “That additional information will be coming in around Christmas.”

The AER is aware that Riversdale’s fisheries studies will not be completed at the time they resubmit their EIA.

AER spokesperson Monica Hermary said her organization, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Alberta Environment and Parks have been working with Riversdale to address fisheries concerns, including concerns related to the habitat of the west slope cutthroat trout.

The federal government has declared the creeks near the proposed Grassy Mountain project critical habitat for Alberta’s threatened population of westslope cutthroat trout.
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The critical habitat order, published by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in a November 2015 issue of the Canada Gazette, prohibits the destruction of any part of the trout’s habitat. The prohibition pertains to any recreational, commercial or industrial use that could harm trout streams in the southern Alberta foothills.

Fisheries biologist Lorne Fitch explained that a fisheries survey provides a snapshot of the range of natural variability within an ecosystem including how populations fluctuate within a year and between years.

“You can’t do it in a few months,” said Fitch. “The window you select becomes too narrow to tell the story about what the system is and what the critters are doing to fit into that system.”

“If they want to do this in a legitimate way, they probably should have started a couple years ago to accumulate the information that would provide the regulator with the sense that they had done a credible job,” he added.

Another issue not addressed in the EIA was the impact that the relocation of nine holes of the golf course as well as the clubhouse would have on the community. Riversdale has proposed swapping land with the golf course in order to relocate the nine holes but did not address the fact that some of the land is Crown land.

Golf course superintendent Waren Gietz will be talking about the re-configuration of the Crowsnest Pass Golf and Country Club at a Crowsnest Pass Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on June 8.

In addition to the EIA, Riversdale needs to submit a number of other applications related to the project before the AER can conduct a full review. This includes applications under the Water Act, Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, Coal Conservation Act, and Public Lands Act.
June 1st ~ Vol. 85 No. 21
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