Regarding: Cancellation of Appeal to the Municipal Board regarding the Provincial issue of Water Rights Act of License No. 2020-036
On Monday, January 9th, the lawyers for Margaret Marion-Akins and Berger Peat Moss Processing Plant advised the Municipal Board that over the weekend an agreement had been reached between the two parties. To be clear: this appeal does not involve or affect the legal action between Berger Peat Moss Processing Plant and the Springfield Taxpayers Rights Corp. The only common element is that both issues involve Berger and the Akins.
In August of 2021, Margaret Marion-Akins, wrote a letter to the Drainage and Water Rights Licensing Branch objecting to the issuance of the water license to Berger. The basis of the objection that she laid out in her letter was in part that the province relied on an incomplete hydrogeological report. The submitted report did not base its evaluations on the granted usage of 200 USGM (US gallons per minute), that longer term pumping tests were to have been done by Friesen Drillers, and the impacts to neighbouring wells was not properly studied. This letter began a formal appeal process regarding the issuance of the water license by the Province. The appeal was then forwarded to the Municipal Board. A year and a half later, a five day Public Hearing was scheduled that would involve legal representation from the three parties (Province, Berger, and Akins) as well their expert witnesses.
The best outcome that could have been expected from the Akins perspective would have been to have the Province revoke the water license and require Berger to drill a new test well and do the proper monitoring of the Berger production wells as well as monitor the impact to neighbouring wells. Depending on the results, Berger could again make application for a new water license accordingly. The worst outcome would be that the license was upheld and no further testing would be required. The negotiated agreement, involves the drilling of a new observation well, a full test of the production wells being done and monitoring of the aquifer for a period of time.
As their expert witness, the Akins hired Steven Topping P.Eng. His credentials included working for the Province for 20 years and at one point being directly responsible for the Water Rights Licensing Section. Through his review of the documents, tests and related studies he concluded that more standardized and stringent testing should be required in Springfield for any large ground water consumers. Furthermore he suggested that a study of the current licensed groundwater and domestic water withdrawal should be undertaken to obtain an understanding of the carbonate aquifer sustainability for the eastern side of the province and Springfield in particular.
It is hoped that now the Appeal has ended, we can continue to work with Mr. Topping and go before council to address the importance of obtaining a sustainable groundwater plan for Springfield.