The project of repairing or replacing the underwater rock groyne at the north end of Lake Windermere will no longer need an environmental assessment due to the new federal budget bill.

Federal bill impacts valley

Three projects in Kootenay National Park and one in Lake Windermere are no longer required to undergo an environmental assessment.

Environmental assessments for three projects in Kootenay National Park and one on Lake Windermerehave been axed under Bill C-38, the federal budget bill introduced earlier this year that effectively repealed the existing Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

“Under the former Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, numerous small, routine projects that posed little or no risk to the environment were subject to formal federal environmental assessment,” Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency senior communications advisor Isabelle Perrault said in an email. “The new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) focuses reviews on those project proposals that have a greater potential for significant adverse environmental effects in areas of federal jurisdiction.”

Under the new legislation, the removal or repair of the Windermere Lake rock groyne at the north end of Windermere Lake, will no longer require an environmental assessment. Projects in Kootenay National Park that no longer require assessments are the Kootenay River bank stabilization on Highway 93 South, tunnel and retaining wall rehabilitation in Sinclair Canyon, and Radium Hot Springs lodge demolition and site remediation. It had been determined that an environmental assessment for the Lake Windermere project was required because Public Works and Government Services Canada was the proponent and considered providing financial assistance. Each of the four projects in Kootenay National Park required an environmental assessment because the projects’ proponent was Parks Canada.

The four projects number among the nearly 500 that no longer require environmental assessments under the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 that came into force on July 6, replacing the former Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

“The vast majority of these smaller projects were expected to have little or no adverse effects on the environment,” Perrault said.

This view, however, is contradicted by the Lake Windermere Management Plan, which identifies the section of the channel where the Windermere Lake rock groyne is located as an environmentally sensitive area, and suggests that any proposed changes to the groyne, or weir as it’s also referred to, undergo an environmental assessment first, given the potential impact on fish and aquatic macrophytes, beaches, shoreline condition, flood hazards and other areas.

The plan’s recommendation to study the environmental and hydrological impacts is based on the assumption that there could be some of those impacts, said Lake

Windermere Ambassadors Program Co-ordinator Kirsten Harma, noting the management plan includes recommendations for the lake developed through community consultation and inter-agency discussions.

“There could be impacts but we don’t know what they are,” Harma said. “A key part of the Ambassadors’ mandate is to help maintain an ecologically healthy Lake Windermere.  We hope that anyone proposing changes in or around the lake take the necessary steps to avoid negative ecological impact.”

“A key part of the Ambassadors’ mandate is to help maintain an ecologically healthy Lake Windermere,” she said. “We hope that anyone proposing changes in or around the lake take the necessary steps to avoid negative ecological impact.”

Whether or not the projects will be going ahead minus the assessments will be up to the projects’ proponents, Perrault told The Valley Echo on Friday (August 31).