Stoney Nakoda taking province to court over approval of Fortress water sales

The Stoney Nakoda Nation is taking the Alberta government to court over its decision to allow Fortress Mountain Resort to sell water from its water licence allocation.

Licence amended last year to allow mountain resort to sell canned water

This satellite image shows Fortress Mountain ski resort, located within Kananaskis Country, west of Calgary. (Google Maps)

The Stoney Nakoda Nation is taking the Alberta government to court over its decision to allow Fortress Mountain Resort to sell water from its water licence allocation.

The nation is asking for the approval to be overturned, for the government to acknowledge it failed to consult the Stoney and a prohibition on the project moving forward at this time. 

The lawsuit was first reported in The Sprawl. None of the allegations have been proven in court. 

Fortress was shuttered as a ski hill in 2004 and the new owners have been trying to reopen since 2010 — operating cat skiing and playing host to TV and film crews in the meantime. 

It is now aiming to open in 2021.

In 2019, it received approval to use 50 million litres for commercial sales. That's approximately half of what the resort is allowed to draw from a creek for its drinking water licence. 

However, the ownership stressed in submissions to the provincial government that it needed significantly less for its operations. 

Water use

Fortress estimates it will require approximately 1.75 million litres of potable water in its first season. The water comes from an unnamed tributary of the Galatea Creek, which flows into the Kananaskis River. The resort says the source creek produces 1.7 to 1.9 billion litres per year and contains no fish. 

It is estimated that nine trucks per day will haul water from the resort property.

The Stoney Nakoda Nation alleges in the lawsuit that the government failed to consult with the nation as required by the constitution and wants the approval overturned. 

It cites adverse impacts on fish and wildlife, as well as water quality and quantity for the nation. It also cites the cumulative impacts of other developments across its traditional territory that are making it difficult to assert its treaty rights. 

The Stoney Nation says it wasn't provided sufficient time to respond to the water licence application during the public response period and that it should have been consulted by the government and Fortress well in advance. 

Alberta Environment and Parks, after receiving a letter expressing the nation's concerns, responded that the project did not trigger the duty to consult with the Stoney, according to court documents filed by the nation.

Fortress's water licence change was approved on Oct. 25, 2019, and the Stoney were informed three days later, according to the documents. 

The nation appealed, but that appeal was rejected. 

rök glacier water

The nation argues in court documents that the province failed in its constitutional obligations and it alleges Fortress has been unresponsive to its concerns. 

A representative from Fortress was not immediately available for comment; neither was the director of consultation for the Stoney Nation, Dean Cherkas.

A spokesperson for Alberta Environment and Parks has yet to respond to a request for comment. 

Fortress is now selling canned water itself under the name rök glacier water. It was previously in discussions with a Calgary-based company to sell a range of products, including cannabis-infused water. 

Fortress said in its application for the licence change that it would restrict shipments in the case of low water flow and that shipment sizes would vary based on seasonal flows. 

The government received 246 "statements of concern" regarding the plan when first proposed, ranging from increased traffic and emissions to impact on wildlife and the loss of water as climate change threatens the region's glaciers. 

Alberta Environment found none of the complaints to be valid because none of the people who submitted them would be directly affected. 

There were also 13 letters submitted in support of the project. 

There is not yet a court date set for the proceedings. 


  • The original caption for the image with this story said Fortress is located within Spray Valley Provincial Park. In fact, its lease predates the park and it is located on provincial Crown land.
    Aug 28, 2020 10:10 AM MT