Presentation to Council members of the R.M. of Lakeland # 521, September 11, 2001
Thank you for allowing us to come to this Council Meeting. It was two years and one month ago that we were here, asking Council to support our concerns about SaskPower's initial plans for routing their project through the forests of this R.M. Council supported our stand at that time, and we are asking for a renewed support for concerns that affect us as individual land owners and also other residents of the RM, and which also greatly impact on the entire eastern area of the RM and on Christopher Lake itself, These changes will dramatically alter this part of our community in perpetuity.
We are not professionals at this sort of thing. We don't have special training or resources or research staff to help us prepare our presentations. We do however, have our knowledge as residents of this area, and we have the moral support of very many people from here and in the larger community. Two years ago, within two weeks, nearly 1000 signatures were added to a petition asking SaskPower to not route through this forest area. Over the two years hundreds and hundreds of letters have been sent to SaskPower and others urging that a route be selected that does the least damage to the forest and stays away from peoples' homes. In the three weeks since SaskPower has declared its intention to select the "pink Alt 3" route through our forests, there have been well over a hundred letters that have been sent to SERM to protest this, and in support of our "Adopt a Tree" Forest of Protest, over 700 individuals have adopted trees that are named and stand in the face of SaskPower's bulldozers. I have a current listing of these names which I will give to Council at the end of my presentation. Seventy-seven percent of these adoptions come from this area and other parts of Saskatchewan, but there is also support from across this country and even internationally. In most cases the adoptions are by people who have first hand experience with this area or by those who are expressing support for those of us who are directly affected by the project. It is this kind of support that assures us that we are not alone and that we have the support of a very large community of concerned and outraged citizens.
In the two years of reasoned presentations, further biological studies supporting our arguments, of which Council has a sample, extensive recommendations of the Routing Review Panel that all but drew a map for SaskPower through already opened agricultural lands, nothing of real substance has changed in SaskPower's routing plans. Instead of cutting small properties in half as the proposal did two years ago, most of SaskPower's current route lines appear to follow property lines, but by unreasonably sticking to road allowance lines, the current line comes between 100 and 250 meters from more homes than on any other routing alternative.. Instead of ripping through the Elizabethan Sisters Franciscan Forest Sanctuary as first planned, the route now heads a bit further west and plows a swath through the narrow strip of land between the waters of Christopher Lake and the band of private homes along Highway # 2, and comes less than a half mile from our Lutheran Bible Camp Kinasao.
Most residents of Lakeland have had no direct information about this project, nor have they seen the maps that illustrate how it will impact on the east side of Christopher Lake. When they are informed, they are horrified by what they find out, and repeatedly ask the question : "Why would they do this?"
I too have struggled with that question for a long time.
Yes, La Ronge needs a secure power supply, but La Ronge does not need 16 times its present supply, and there are much less damaging routes by which La Ronge power needs can be met. Once a corridor is granted to SaskPower on the argument of assuring La Ronge community needs, there is no way of stopping a much larger project bringing power down south through this corridor from dams on the Churchill River.
Yes, the line has to go somewhere and it will be on both private and public lands, but instead of going where it destroys the most forest, goes through the most sensitive habitat in the whole study area, and comes closer to more homes than any other route alternative, it should be routed through areas where it does the least damage.
Yes, the line will go on some private lands, but no, it should not go THROUGH forest where it does 992 times as much damage per mile than it will do by going OVER opened agricultural or pasture lands.
Yes, some landowners will be unhappy with the line on their property, but NO, it did not have to be routed over public lands in a manner so that it endangers large areas of sensitive environment that is the legacy of our whole community. And No, SaskPower did not ask the residents on the west and south sides of Christopher Lake how they feel about having the hillside overlooking the east side of the lake stripped and chemically destroyed. And No residents were not told that this same hillside will be further stripped by Weyerhauser, using this SaskPower project as its excuse to exercise its cutting rights in the area. Mr. Lautermilch indicated this in a phone conversation with one of my neighbours.
Again and again, I come back to the answer I got when I first asked SaskPower what factors they were considering when they selected their route. The reply I got in August 1999 was that SaskPower looked for high ground near the highway.
I guess that is the real answer, and all of the people and environment costs of this route will not stand in the way of construction convenience and SaskPower construction costs. SaskPower's focus remains single-minded, and it will do what makes sense to Regina engineers and what ignores all the values of respect for forest, land, water and people of this community. Regina engineers look at air photos and topographical maps. They see the project from above and never have the ground view that we know. They see the project from the perspective of persons with legislative power and great political influence. They never see and think about the project from the view from a canoe on Christopher Lake, looking to a sunrise over a blighted hillside with poisons leeching into the lake water and killing a delicate ecosystem. These engineers see forest as land areas to be cleared, not from the perspective of a child walking a forest trail looking upward in wonder at the towering tree she has just adopted as her own special connection to this incredible place.
We have provided several information items for Council that relate to this issue:
While Michelle and I are asking Council to take actions that could help to protect our own lands, we believe that what SaskPower's project will do to our properties is a good example of what will happen on a much larger scale to a very large portion of the RM if the project is allowed to go ahead as planned.
The properties that Michelle and I own are also our homes. We use the land in different but compatible ways. I have developed my land as a nature sanctuary which is open to use by the public and has been shared by many people. The beauty of my land with its spring-fed pond is incredible, and probably cannot be matched by another site within 50 miles. The trails I have created have been said to be as impressive as the TreeBeard tails in the National Park, and unlike the Park trails, my trails are closer and free to access. In fact, on Thursday of this week I will be hosting a class of 34 highschool students taking a Forestry Studies class. These students are using my forest as the field study area for their course. I hosted nearly 700 visitors in the past year, with 111 guests just this past month. This is consistent with my belief that the beauty and soul healing qualities of this property should be shared with others who need and want to share in it. The educator in me knows that people will defend what they value, and they will value what they know. Some people have shared my forest and my home for various periods of time because they needed to heal physically, mentally and spiritually, and in two cases, needed to prepare to die.
The site I have is focussed on the pond. The waters of this pond are in great danger by SaskPower's plan to strip and contaminate the high ground that feeds the springs that feed this pond.
Michelle protects her forest but uses it as a wood lot. Both of us want to see the recreation and conservation values of our land protected beyond our present tenure and stewardship. It is for this reason that we are asking the RM to enter into Conservation Easement Agreements with us.
SaskPower places lines on maps and asks us to accept that this is where the line will be actually placed. There is no such assurance in reality, since SaskPower obtains easements which permit it to place the line anywhere within a half-mile easement area. Because my properties are only 1/4 mile on the side, that gives them total access to any part of my property, despite any lines on a map or promises to the contrary. SaskPower declares that the poles will be on road allowance and suggests that we have no say over what happens to that 33 feet of our property. The road allowance between our properties is a right-of-way for the RM to build a road if they need it. Since it approaches the highway with a 20 foot embankment, it is unlikely that it would ever be used for that purpose. And SaskPower clearly know that fact. When SaskPower was supplying local power to me and my neighbours along Highway # 2 about 15 years ago, they trenched an underground cable right down the middle on our property lines. They asked and received Michelle's permission to do this. They would not have asked permission if they really believed the landowner and the RM had no say over what happened to this land.
The actual destruction of habitat created by this line through the ½ mile of the forest that Michelle and I own is massive. The height of trees in our forest, according to SaskPower charts, will require a corridor 70 to 80 metres wide. On a half mile, that will destroy 55,552 square meters of land , compared to 56 square meters of land taken out of use by posts supporting a line going over one half mile of open land or pasture. This incredible disproportional damage of routing through forests seems to have no impact on the designers of this line.
We also have grave concerns about the loss of security by having this corridor pass through our side and back yards. This will be a major ATV and snowmobile route, and we all know that.
The damage which is going to happen to Michelle's and my land, will also happen to public lands west of the highway, and to the adjacent private homes and businesses along the highway. The ERIN Summary Report, of which you have a copy in front of you, correctly points out that the damage done to continuous forest by the corridor extends well beyond the corridor into the forest itself. Once the corridor is west of the highway, it will be within 3/4 mile of Christopher Lake water, and within ½ mile of Camp Kinasao itself. (See map on wall in RM office) The narrow forest corridor through which the line will run, and which will be treated with herbicides, is the high ground watershed that feeds the ponds and wetlands that feed the springs and creeks that supply Christopher Lake with clean water. Mr. Lautermilch commented in a phone conversation with a neighbour of mine, that this was a good place to put the line because it would coincide with Weyerhauser clearing in the same area. When were Christopher Lake residents told that the forested hillside that makes up the eastern shore of Christopher Lake will be stripped and altered forever?
When SaskPower says that they chose this route to minimize the amount of private land affected they fail to mention something very important. By selecting this particular route they are going through a very fragile ecosystem (see sensitivity ratings on map and on lake) and through very important public recreation and residential areas. In doing so, they are doing much more damage to thousands of people who live on the lake or who use Kinasao and the lake for spiritual and recreation purposes. What kind of impact will this have on tourism in our area? Are the objections of a few people not wanting their cattle to graze under the powerline for a few months of their lives of more importance than the concerns of all of the landowners and general public affected by Pink Alt 3?
Michelle and I are asking Council to help protect our lands and to protect the resources and the future of this entire pocket of forest and lake land for the future. Just as Michelle and I are responsible for the forests under our care, so too this RM Council is responsible for this whole area during this critical time in the history of the RM.
Please help us by expressing your grave concerns about what will happen to this area if SaskPower's project goes ahead as planned, and so support the contention that this is a "Development" according to the Environmental Assessment Act.
Please help us by refusing to give permissions to SaskPower to go through the private and crown lands according to their present plans, and require them to come to the southern connection point of their project from the east where damage to environment and to people is minimized. Routing alternatives to the east would cost each Saskatchewan resident less than 2 pennies more per year, amortised over the life of the project.
And finally, please allow us to become active conservation partners with the RM by negotiating Conservation Easements Agreements with us and other owners of private lands in the RM.
We would welcome any questions for clarification or discussion that the Council members would wish to direct to us.
Thank you for your attention.
Requests of Council of R. M. Lakeland # 521
1. Request of Council, on behalf of the citizens of the R.M. of Lakeland # 521, to express its grave concern about the known and potential environmental changes and damage to lands, waters, and the total environment in the R. M. of Lakeland brought about by the SaskPower 138 KV power line corridor planned to be build within the RM of Lakeland according to SaskPowers preferred route known as Pink Alt 3 of the PA 8 Rebuild Phase II plan, declared by SaskPower on August 14, 2001, from where it enters the R. M. of Lakeland from the east, passes through private forest lands and crosses Highway # 2, and then proceeds northward west of Highway # 2. This concern for damage and change to the environment in Lakeland Rural Municipality # 521 is supported by the 2000 SaskPower PA 8 Rebuild Phase II Environmental Study Final Report prepared by ERIN Consulting Ltd., November 2000 and by Map 2 "Sensitive Areas", Map 4 "Quartersection Habitat Sensitivity Rankings" and Map 5 "Designated Areas".
2. Request of Council that it pass a resolution declaring its refusal to grant any and all permits or permissions which would allow SaskPower to create a corridor to build the 138 KV power line within the RM of Lakeland according to SaskPowers preferred route known as Pink Alt 3 of the PA 8 Rebuild Phase II plan, declared by SaskPower on August 14, 2001, from where it enters the R. M. of Lakeland from the east, passes through private forest lands and crosses Highway # 2, and then proceeds northward west of Highway # 2, and that Council express its willingness to accept a powerline corridor which would allow access by SaskPower to the present southern termination / connect point of the Phase I line construction only if the corridor approaches that connection point from the east through crown forests.
3. Request that Council pass a resolution declaring its intent to enter into Conservation Easement Contract negotiations / discussions with private landowners in the R.M. of Lakeland leading to the signing of Conservation Easement Contracts, with the explicit purpose of assuring long-term conservation practices on privately-owned lands in the R.M, and specifically, that Council express its intent to accept the requests of landowners, Gerald Regnitter and Michelle McLeod, to negotiate the establishment of such Conservation Easements on lands owned by them within the R.M. of Lakeland.
Council understands that additional landowners have expressed a desire to enter into Conservation Easement agreements with the R.M. of Lakeland as soon as clear title is established on their properties, and hereby encourages additional landowners to become Conservation Easement partners with the R.M. of Lakeland in order to preserve long-term conservation interests of both the current land-owners and the R.M.
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