- Calling For Ban in UNB Woodlot: "Don't Frack Our Forest."
By Cheryl Norrad
It has recently been discovered by concerned citizens that the UNB Woodlot, a portion of which is seen above, has been licensed for shale gas work within Fredericton city limits. (Photo: Mark D'arcy at www.elements.nb.ca)
FREDERICTON - After discovering shale gas exploration licenses on a Provincial Natural Resources map, The Friends of the UNB Woodlot want to make a presentation to Fredericton’s City Council and outline the reasons why such an activity is an unacceptable risk of contamination to the city's drinking water.
"Why was the public not told of this by city or provincial officials? Our watersheds and aquifer are literally surrounded by a 10-kilometre area of shale gas exploration licenses in all directions," said Mark D’Arcy, a spokesman of The Friends of the UNB Woodlot group. "This is an unacceptable risk to our drinking water. City Council will be asked to use the precautionary principle and ban this activity due to the risk of serious or irreversible damage to our aquifer. The City of Fredericton can ban high-impact industrial uses from within the city limits using an amendment of their Zoning Bylaw Z-2," he said.
Above, a Natural Resources map shows the areas licensed or leased for shale gas work in New Brunswick. The beige area covers the city of Fredericton, licensed to shale gas company SWN Resources. (DNR maps online)
The group of concerned citizens in Fredericton, NB is calling on the City of Fredericton to use their existing land use planning system to stop any future shale gas testing and drilling within the UNB Woodlot Forest. This 3800-acre forested wetland is the origin of four major watersheds that extend over the entire southside of Fredericton and part of New Maryland.
Above, City of Fredericton wetlands map outlining wetlands found within city limits. (Photo: Charles LeBlanc)
"It is beyond any notion of the precautionary principle that anyone would allow shale gas companies to drill vertical boreholes a mile down, drill horizontal laterals more than a mile across, and introduce cancer-causing chemicals under extremely high pressure, just outside the wellfield protection areas of the City of Fredericton and the Village of New Maryland," said D’Arcy.
Above, Mark D'Arcy of The Friends of the UNB Woodlot. (Photo: Charles Leblanc)
Since 2007, The Friends of the UNB Woodlot have been actively trying to prevent the fragmentation of the entire 3800-acre forested wetlands by the current development plans by UNB. The approval of shale gas exploration licenses only adds to their concern. City Council is going against its own environmental technical report of 1989 that clearly stated that the UNB Woodlot is an "environmentally sensitive area", which "should be protected and enhanced".
"Our group has consistently spoken out against the destruction of these forested welands within our city limits. Our concerns are real, especially now that the NB Department of the Environment is using an outdated Natural Resources map that is missing more than 60% of the wetlands in this province," says Caroline Lubbe-D’Arcy, another member of the Friends of the UNB Woodlot.
Natural Resources welands map from NBGeomap Viewer, June 16, 2011. For an enhanced view go to the following link: http://www.snb.ca/geonb2/index.html
"If a wetland does not appear on this map, you can drain it, infill it, or drill it, all without the requirement of a Watercourse and Wetland Alternation Permit (WAWA), or if the wetland is more than 2 hectares in size, all without the requirement of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The public will not even have any government records to show that wetlands not shown on the map are being destroyed! Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney and Mayor Brad Woodside are turning a blind eye to this destruction," said Lubbe-D'Arcy.
Above, Caroline Lubbe-D'Arcy of The Friends of the UNB Woodlot. (Photo: Charles Leblanc)
"If the City of Fredericton and New Brunswick used a holistic, watershed-based approach to drinking water protection, it would have immediately raised red flags about any future shale gas development in the UNB Woodlot," said D’Arcy.
According to D'Arcy, watershed-based source protection should be implemented to protect New Brunswick’s sources of drinking water against contamination and depletion. A source protection plan for the City of Fredericton would protect not only the immediate recharge areas of wellfield protection areas, but also the intake protection zones, and vulnerable watershed areas that exist outside the city limits. The source protection plan is a "living document" that is continually updated with new information and safeguards.
"We need to have our municipal and provincial government rethink the development plans for the UNB Woodlot," said Lubbe-D’Arcy. "The cost to the public is becoming too great, especially with more severe rain storms of climate change. If our elected representatives choose to do nothing, we will continue to have increased government spending, increased property taxes, increased home and business property insurance rates, increased flood risk, decreased UNB alumni support, and decreased quality of life for our community and children. And now we have to contend with shale gas exploration in the future. Our response is a loud "Don’t Frack our Forest."
Although it is the weekend, City of Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside was reached via Twitter and offered the following comment on the situation: "Sorry, I did not know that, but have found that it [shale gas work] is not being done, at least that I'm aware of...Nobody has talked to me about this [Friends of UNB Woodlot claims people not told] and I am trying to find out if this [shale gas work] is being done or proposed in the City."
The Purple Violet Press has also put in e-mails to communications officials at both DNR and the Environment Department.