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Great Lakes Article:

Chippewas want to help town in pipeline battle
By Angela McEwen

The Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation are looking forward to working with the Town of Collingwood in an attempt to solve some of the issues regarding the waters of Georgian Bay.
"This is the first time that we've been asked to come to something like this," said Chief Ralph Akiwenzie of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation. "I view this as an education process as well. And if the council would like to have continuing dialogue that's good."

The First Nations community, located on the Bruce Peninsula, is facing similar issues as Collingwood regarding water pipelines being proposed to solve Walkerton's water problems.

Many of the municipalities are lobbying to build pipelines, a 50-kilometre one to Lake Huron or a 75 kilometre one to Georgian Bay, rather than give serious consideration to the other two proposals outlined in the Environmental Assessment, said Akiwenzie.

The other options include expanding current wells and digging a new well field.

Closer to home, New Tecumseth is attempting to build a pipeline from Alliston to Bond Head and supply the municipality of Bradford with water through the existing Collingwood/Alliston pipeline.

Collingwood is concerned with the sale of water outside the Nottawasaga Watershed.

"This brings us together with some commonalities in regards to water," Akiwenzie told council Monday evening.

"Our involvement with water goes way back since time immemorial."

The pipeline would also affect Saugeen First Nation, which is located on the eastern side of Georgian Bay near Sauble Beach.

"We are very very interested in the terms of water and its use," said Akiwenzie. For decades, the communities have been battling against development along the shores of the bay attempting to protect the natural environment as well as their fishing and treaty rights.

In 1999, the community made a presentation to an International Commission regarding the sale of bulk water and the potential hazards it holds, he said.

"Our rights would mean nothing if it wasn't for our resources," said Akiwenzie.

"The First Nations point of view (is that) we have quite a concern with any diversion of water on Georgian Bay and Lake Huron and it's tied in with rights. "

Any diversion of water from its natural environment, whether a stream, lake, river or pond, has an effect on the species which inhabit the area and the ecosystem surrounding it, he added.

"It's about time the First Nations point of view is upheld," he said. "Any diversion of any water into a pipeline will have an effect on the shore. What good are our boats if there's no water?"

The quality and quantity of water in Georgian Bay is quickly becoming a serious concern with area communities, especially since the water levels are so much lower than last year.

"Any shoreline alteration of any development should be of concern to us," he said. "I think we come at an important time of change."

The Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation aren't totally opposed to pipelines. However, the process itself has raised the most grave concerns, said David McLaren communications officer.

"They did not approach the First Nation to see what they thought of it," McLaren told council. "There are over 100 First Nations in Canada (that) have water problems and are on water-boiling advisories. Nobody knows exactly how many people have died or became ill from the water."

First Nations people should be more involved in watershed planning since there are many within the communities who have the environmental knowledge regarding their traditional territories, said McLaren.

"The natural environment doesn't have a lot of weight in the EA process," he stated.

Many different aspects of the natural environment are affected during bulk water transfers and since there are so many variables, it's difficult even for scientists to gauge the full extent of the harm, he added.

Nutrient recycling, bionic interactions and the behaviours of fish such as reproduction are some of the areas which should be studied during the EA process when municipalities are attempting to build pipelines, he added.

"In talking to some people around here there is some concern about the pipeline which goes to Alliston and the water going out of the watershed," said McLaren.

The studies surrounding individual pipelines have produced insufficient scientific data, and networks of pipelines have been given less consideration, he added.

Although it's been stated the Great Lakes hold 18 per cent of the world's fresh water, most of it dates from the last ice age and isn't replaceable.

Coun. Bev Willis said he's in favour of continuing dialogue with the community and creating a stronger partnership for the future.

Coun. Rick Lloyd noted that Collingwood is concerned with protecting the wetlands and aquifers within its boundaries, and doesn't want to see the water piped outside the watershed.

"There's a lot we can do and the answer isn't just piping water to another community," said Lloyd. "Twenty years ago, this glass of water was just that - now it's a commodity."

Another problem with the EA process is the public is only given 30 days in which to come forward with any concerns they may have regarding a development taking place, said McLaren.

It's challenging to get a lot of information regarding anything in such a short time, he added.

Many of the councillors agreed the process has serious flaws and were also concerned with the limited amount of time in which to review studies then supply input into a project.

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