The case regarding the water management plan for the Badlands Racetrack Development that is before the Alberta Environmental Appeals Board, has been delayed.
According to a release dated April 22, the Board has determined there was insufficient time before the previously scheduled May 16-18 hearing for the Board to provide its reasons and deal with previously presented issues.
The appeal that is before the board protests the infilling of several wetlands surrounding the Rosebud River basin.
General Counsel of the Environmental Appeals Board, Gilbert Van Nes, said that local residents have appealed the development plan with concerns that the water management plan will have adverse impacts on the river, wildlife and surrounding environment.
“The appeal is regarding the Badlands Racetrack Development, but specifically the water management plan that is designed for the racetrack project,” said Van Nes. “The board is only looking at the water management plan, not the racetrack itself. We’re looking at the infilling of three wetlands completely, two wetlands partially and a stormwater management plan.”
One of the issues that has caused problems for the proceedings is the presence of sensitive species within the wetland.
“The Federal government has identified a species of risk in the area — the Bank Swallow – and published some technical information regarding the protection of Bank Swallow habitat,” said Van Nes. “That is one of the new pieces of information that is going to have to come into the hearing and that is one of the reasons we have been delayed in our hearing process.”
Van Nes added the delay is in part due to the current workload of the Environmental Appeals Board, as well as a result of a court decision from a year ago which changed the rules of who may appear in front of the appeals board.
The case regarding the water management plan is effectively the first case in which the new rules are being applied, according to Van Nes.
“Once we reset the hearing date, within 30 days of completion of that hearing date, the board will provide a report and recommendations to the Minister of Environment and then the Minister of Environment will make the final decision,” said Van Nes.
As a result of appealing to the board, there are ultimately three outcomes which may occur. The first, being that the water management plan is deemed acceptable and will proceed unhindered.
The second is that the plan may continue but must be altered to meet the will of the board and the Minister of Environment.
“The other option is, the water management plan (being) canceled, then the Badlands Racetrack Development would have to reapply to Alberta Environment with more significant modifications to take into account whatever concern was that saw the appeal being cancelled,” explained Van Nes.
He suggested, however, that it is extremely rare for an approval to be canceled. Instead, the majority of the time it is either approved as presented, or changes are made.
Van Nes was unable to speak to the potential environmental impacts which may be caused by the infilling of the wetlands in question.
There will be a meeting between all parties on May 16, at which time a date will be established for when the hearing will continue.
The public will be allowed to attend via video conference upon request prior to the start of the appeal hearing. Following the appeal, the audio will be made available to anyone who requests it.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times