Hori­zon Lake a re­flec­tion of co-op­er­a­tion and con­ser­va­tion

Ottawa Citizen - - FP MARKETS -

Be­fore re­mov­ing a sin­gle bar­rel of bi­tu­men from its Hori­zon Oil Sands op­er­a­tion, Cana­dian Nat­u­ral Re­sources Lim­ited sat down with abo­rig­i­nal lead­ers to dis­cuss the ef­fects the op­er­a­tion would have on tra­di­tional lands.

The Hori­zon Oil Sands op­er­a­tion is lo­cated some 75 kilo­me­tres north of Fort McMur­ray in the Tar River­Val­ley. One of the big­gest chal­lenges of the project was to mit­i­gate the dis­rup­tion of fish pop­u­la­tions in Tar and Calumet River wa­ter­sheds that are an im­por­tant food source for the lo­cal com­mu­nity.

The so­lu­tion was the con­struc­tion of an 80-hectare (197-acre) fish­eries com­pen­sa­tion lake — the first of its kind in the oil sands.

Over a three-year pe­riod, 116,000 fish were re­moved from a sec­tion of the Tar River af­fected by the oil sands op­er­a­tion and re­lo­cated to the lake, or the Ells or Athabasca river sys­tems. The process has pro­vided a sig­nif­i­cant boost to the sci­en­tific knowl­edge of fish species in the Athabasca River and its trib­u­taries.

Con­sul­ta­tion with lo­cal stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing Dené, Cree and Métis peo­ples, was a key to the de­sign and devel­op­ment process, says Calvin Duane, man­ager of en­vi­ron­ment for Cana­dian Nat­u­ral. Ex­ten­sive dis­cus­sions were held with chiefs and coun­cil, el­ders, band in­dus­try re­la­tions or­ga­ni­za­tions, and with the broader com­mu­nity.

“Dur­ing the con­sul­ta­tions we heard the con­cerns of the var­i­ous groups and, based on their in­put, changed the lo­ca­tion of the lake and the list of fish species that would be in­tro­duced,” Mr. Duane says. “A mem­ber of the com­mu­nity also gave the lake its name — Wa­pan Sakahikan, which is Cree for Hori­zon Lake. It has be­come a spe­cial place of spir­i­tu­al­ity and co­op­er­a­tion.”

It has been more than four years since Hori­zon Lake filled to ca­pac­ity. Dur­ing that time the lake and sur­round­ing habi­tat has be­come home to a di­ver­sity of wildlife. To date 11 species of fish have been in­tro­duced, and the Arc­tic grayling (a species of spe­cial con­cern) has been doc­u­mented. Loons, pel­i­cans and swans are ac­tive on the lake, keep­ing them away from tail­ings ponds, and fox and bear have es­tab­lished dens in the area.

Methyl mer­cury lev­els are con­stantly mon­i­tored against lev­els up­stream and mer­cury lev­els are be­ing main­tained at low lev­els. Habi­tats are as­sessed reg­u­larly as is shore-line ero­sion. And on­go­ing dis­cus­sions with lo­cal peo­ples have re­sulted in the ad­di­tion of tra­di­tional medic­i­nal and food plants to the area.

Hori­zon Lake is a model on which other com­pen­sa­tion lakes are be­ing planned, adds Mr. Duane. “We are host­ing tours, shar­ing data and mak­ing sug­ges­tions to other com­pa­nies work­ing in the oil sands. The goal is to help them to build on our success.”

Hori­zon Lake is a vis­i­ble mon­u­ment to multi-party co-op­er­a­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.