Conservationists say the provincial government is deliberately obstructing watershed protection in New Brunswick. This comes on the heels of a scathing report released Monday by the provincial ombudsman in which he said a piece of 2002 legislation has not had any “tangible results.”
The Water Classification Regulation was implemented to classify water systems to protect them for their intended uses, such as drinking, recreation and wildlife.
Bill Ayer, a former Department of Environment worker, says the regulation is also meant to ensure resource development projects meet higher standards.
“It puts the onus on the companies not to come in and hijack the quality of the water, and put whatever they want in it,” he said.
Ayer helped draft the classification regulation and spoke today at a gathering of conservationists.
"We have a high quality rural environment here. We don't want this sullied. Why would we give this up? This is our sales piece," he said.
Since 2002, 19 watersheds have had submissions for classification, but a series of environment ministers have used a discretion clause to ignore them.
Eleven years ago, Paul McLaughlin submitted a proposal to give the Nashwaak Watershed a class A status. He says it’s alarming the government has consistently ignored submissions for classifications and feels the only way the Nashwaak would get classified is if it was polluted.
“We are now in a position where the condition of our water will be determined by the first person that spoils it,” said the president of the Nashwaak Watershed Association.
Minister of Environment Danny Soucy issued a statement saying he wants to revisit the province's watershed strategy.
Conservationists say New Brunswick already has an ideal system — it's just not being implemented.