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Long Lake tar sands project seeks water from Clearwater River

The Calgary Herald reports that, “The operator of the Long Lake oilsands project in northern Alberta has put forward a plan to tap up to 17,000 cubic metres per day from the Clearwater River.”

This Canadian Heritage River flows 295 kilometres from its headwaters at Broach Lake in northern Saskatchewan to its confluence with the Athabasca River at Fort McMurray.

“The steam-assisted gravity drainage project south of Fort McMurray, which began steaming its underground oilsands deposits in late 2008, is producing about 18,000 barrels per day, about a third of its 60,000 barrel per day goal. But it is using about 100,000 barrels of steam per day, a 5.5-to-one steam-oil ratio when its original plan, which called for no use of surface water, envisioned three-to-one over the life of the project.”

“The water project would involve building a 35-kilometre pipeline to the river before it meets up with the Athabasca River in Fort McMurray.”

“The project will need approvals from Alberta Environment, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development and the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board.”

On March 3, 2008, the Ottawa Citizen reported that, “Senior officials at Environment Canada were warned two years ago about potential economic and environmental impacts from water shortages as well as legal threats resulting from an explosion of development in the oilsands sector…(When asked about this) Environment Canada officials said they needed more time to explain what federal actions have been taken since 2006.”

A 2006 briefing note by Michael Horgan, deputy minister of Environment Canada, states, “The lack of a proper assessment of the cumulative environmental effects associated with these (tarsands) projects could result in legal challenges of federal and provincial approvals…”

As noted in the article, Randy Mikula, a senior researcher at Natural Resources Canada, says the annual water allocation for tarsands companies now stands at 523 million cubic metres, but with new projects the estimated water allocation could rise to 703 million cubic metres, which would likely lead to water restrictions for part of the year.

The full Calgary Herald article is at http://www.calgaryherald.com/business/Environmentalists+outraged+over+Long+Lake+oilsands+water+plan/2778867/story.html#ixzz0kY5jQB8B.