Farm irrigation wells under moratorium at least another year

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Cavendish Farms reiterates call to lift moratorium on high-capacity wells

It will be 2018 before P.E.I. farmers will find out if and under what circumstances they can drill new high-capacity wells for irrigation.

The moratorium on new wells was put in place in 2002, but the issue was recently reopened at the request of the P.E.I. Potato Board. Agriculture is the only sector affected by the moratorium.

But the new draft Water Act, released Thursday, does not directly address agricultural irrigation wells.

"High capacity wells, the short answer for that is the moratorium will stay in place ... Something of that nature would be put into regulation. Work will begin on that once the draft act becomes the full act and presented on the floor of the legislature," Environment Minister Robert Mitchell told CBC's Island Morning Friday.

"Regulations are changed much easier and that's why you put things of that detail in regulation."

Mitchell said there is still research to be done on the question of agricultural wells, and the government is working with the Rivers Institute of P.E.I. on that.

He expects the legislation will be tabled this spring, following a period of public consultation, and the regulations associated with it will be written over the next 12 months.

The moratorium will stay in place until that work is done.

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