2008-02-17 Water: Highgate Dam in context of water shortages in the U.S., response to Maggie. Includes water under Free Trade Agreement, etc. (Successful battle – stopped the Highgate Dam)
Maggie Paquet received my email (2008-02-13) Water: Urgent Update, Proposed Highgate Dam, North Saskatchewan River.
She writes: “It’s a subject I’ve helped fight, on and off, for decades. I believe this Highgate Dam plan is part of it… Anyway, without yarding on any more about it, I put together a brief bit of research just by Googling “NAWAPA.” I am sending you the file for a bit of background on the whole subject. I think it puts this proposal into context. I’m sorry there are so many pages, but I couldn’t edit it without running the risk of missing an important item.”
See 2008-02-17 Water: NAWAPA Cockamamy schemes of the First Order, compiled by Maggie Paquet.
RESPONSE TO MAGGIE:
. . . Yes I think you are right – the Highgate Dam is part of the NAWAPA plan. Locally we have distributed the detailed map (1972) that shows how the water diversions to the U.S. would be accomplished through the Northwest Territories-Alberta-Saskatchewan-Manitoba, and the function of the Highgate Dam in the larger scheme.
Red Williams is President of the Liberal Party of Saskatchewan and President of Agrivision (proponents of “water development” in Saskatchewan). Ralph Goodale (Saskatchewan Member-of-Parliament, a cabinet minister under Chretien, became Canada’s Minister of Finance under Paul Martin) is a best buddy of Williams.
Earlier in this email network I have detailed Agrivision’s Conference on “Drought-Proofing the Economy”. Paul Martin was Prime Minister at the time. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance (Goodale) individually took time to video-tape themselves in a congratulatory message of appreciation to Red and Agrivision for their work on water and the Conference. The messages were displayed on the “big screen”, bigger than life, for the attendees of the Conference.
At earlier water conferences put on by Agrivision, Wayne Clifton (Clifton and Assoc Engineering Co. – a major partner of Red’s in Agrivision) told how there are vast quantities of water in underground aquifers in Saskatchewan, just waiting to be “developed”. I mention this because of reference to underground as well as surface water in the attached water diversion information compiled by Maggie.
Agrivision is behind the proposed Highgate Dam, as detailed below.
WHAT ARE THE DAMS IN CANADA ABOUT?
There are quotes from “Cadillac Desert” in the attached information. Back when we were fighting the proposed Meridian Dam on the South Saskatchewan River some of us read it. Also Sandra Postel’s “Pillar of Sand” with its research on the history and consequences of large dam constructions around the world.
Governments should be making informed decisions. I am confounded that we even have to fight these dams – they are so obviously bad ideas, given what is known; given current problems in the U.S. which have led to the de-commissioning of dams, and also to the infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars to transition OUT of irrigation farming (Nebraska, Idaho for example). The exact opposite of building dams. So why – why do we continue to fight dam construction here? … Is it because they have nothing to do with “drought-proofing the (local) economy”?
Closely related to the NAFTA information in Maggie’s compendium:
There’s another book, “To the Last Drop”, published in 1986, author Michael Keating. Simon Reisman was Canada’s chief negotiator for NAFTA under then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. In a speech to an old boys’ club in Central Canada, a club of influential business interests, Reisman said that the balance of power on the North American continent would shift because Canada has the water resources that the U.S. needs. All we have to do is to put a meter on a tap at the 49th parallel and collect the royalties (and dividends if you are an investor) as the water flows south. The infrastructure costs seem insurmountable, but the Americans need the water so badly that they’ll cover those costs.
Eight years ago part of me was reluctant to relay Reisman’s words because I would be seen to be disconnected from reality. These ideas are surely not serious and therefore not worth talking about. But the meeting Reisman addressed and his speech are part of the public record. The author of “To the Last Drop” was a journalist with the Globe & Mail. Still, the whole thing can seem like the paranoia of a conspiracy theory. Having the map in hand, and now Maggie’s compendium is helpful to maintaining contact with “their” reality.
Also, a couple of years ago my Mother happened to watch a supposed-documentary on television. It was a one-sided promotion of the “Grand Canal” to divert water from James Bay to the U.S., the preposterous idea I first read about in “To the Last Drop” and which I thought had died in the decades since Reisman talked about it.
The attached compendium addresses the question of whether water is exempt under NAFTA, the question being posed to Senator Patricia Carney in the aftermath of Canada signing the Free Trade Agreement. (Carney went from the House of Commons as a Conservative member for B.C. to the Senate. She (trained as an economist) was involved in the FTA negotiations.
Coincidentally, I knew Pat when she had the company “Gemini North” in Yellowknife. The Company did contract work for the oil and gas companies in the Arctic in the early 1970’s. Tom Berger’s indigenous-community-to-community consultations on the proposed Mackenzie Valley Pipeline followed not long after.)
According to the sources, Carney and others believed that water WAS exempt from the terms of the Free Trade Agreements. It was in the text during the negotiations, last they knew. But when the finalized text of the Agreement became available, when asked to provide the reference for where the exemption appears, they were not able to provide the reference. In the final negotiations, in “the 11th hour” to reach an agreement, the clause on water disappeared, as I understand .. I am sure that the recent books on water (sitting in an unread stack on my table, alas!) address this question in more detail.
At the time of reading “To the Last Drop” we were fighting the Meridian Dam on the South Sask River. I only came to learn of the Grand Canal and the Rocky Mountain Trench (proposals to divert water from the northern regions of Canada to the U.S.) as a consequence. Even then I did not appreciate the geographical significance of Saskatchewan. The Trench is far west in B.C.; the Canal would be way off in Central Canada.
But yes – Maggie’s compendium shows the significance of the Highgate Dam. The Meridian Dam is also on the water diversion map. We stopped both those dams from proceeding.
The attached compendium puts the detail map of the planned water diversions into verbal form. This is a first time for me to READ Saskatchewan’s role in the larger context.
As mentioned in the Highgate Update email circulated on February 13th, through a Federal Government funding program (The Canada Saskatchewan Water Supply Expansion Program), responsibility for process and decisions about the water in the River were passed out of Government hands to other interests.
Ralph Goodale was Minister of Finance. His good buddy Red Williams was President of Agrivision. But the money for the feasibility study (between $340,000 and $370,000) didn’t go directly to Agrivision. Agrivision put on the promotional meeting in North Battleford to attract local supporters who would then carry the ball, through an organization they created – the North Sask River Water Resource Committee (NSRWRC).
In the early stages of the fight over the Highgate Dam we went to the Government for answers about lack of due-process. And were told that the Government WASN’T responsible. The North Sask River Water Resources Committee was responsible. Questions should be directed to them.
I am reminded of the words of Red at the Drought-Proofing Conference. He said that decisions around the control of water would be moved into “institutions“. Simultaneously he announced the creation of the Saskatchewan Water Council; his friend Wayne Clifton (also a member of Agrivision) would be the President of the SWC.
I interpret the words and actions as a response to the fact that the intentions to build dams, for example, are thwarted by citizen participation in the democratic process. You have to find a way to by-pass this obstacle if you want to make money from the resource.
They almost did. (“The Government is not responsible for the study of a dam on the North Saskatchewan River.”) They would have been successful, had it not been for a group of dedicated local people, supported by others from across Canada who came down heavily on the Government of Saskatchewan over the Highgate Dam.
The meeting in Maidstone on Febrary 27th is a next critical step, especially with the change in Government. (But not really a change because the motivation to make money from the water resource is just as great and the dedication to protection of the public interest just as absent in Government.)
Agrivision has a history of working with public money through joint Federal-Provincial cost-sharing programmes. That’s how responsibility for “water development” is moved out from under the control of democratic functioning. On February 06-07 I wrote: “The “Canada-Saskatchewan Water Supply Expansion Program (CSWSEP)” is a vehicle through which responsibility for water is transferred to people who have a self and financial interest in water. Their interest: to make money from the “development” of water, the blue gold. CSWSEP is illegimate and must be shut down.”
A year later. I haven’t found the time to initiate action to challenge CSWSEP. It is a priority. We are dupes if we sit by while our money is used to enable the water diversion schemes. And again in the words of Red Williams, to create “equity” (investor) interests in the water behind the dam.
It is essential to be strategic. People who profit through access to the powers that make the decisions on public resources, have been able to do so through the existing political system. The advent of widely-available electronic communications has changed that. Citizens have the ability to successfully challenge abuses. We are doing that with ever-greater confidence and success.
Those who have enjoyed privileged and beneficial access won’t just sit back and watch their position be eroded. If you were them, you’d do exactly what Red said. You’d move the decisions around the resources OUTSIDE AND BEYOND the reach of democratic functioning. Into “institutions”. Like Agrivision and the Saskatchewan Water Council. Or into the hands of the North Sask River Water Resource Committee (NSRWRC), who become tools to accomplish the agenda of water diversion. It’s easy to sell the boondoggle to well-intentioned but poorly-informed people on the premise of “progressive economic development” to “drought-proof the economy”. Doing a good deed.
As we have seen, cost-benefit analyses, properly done, show the dams for what they are. The pay-backs aren’t there. Increasingly, there is credibility for the view that the dams are about something else.
Please – pass the attached compendium on ( 2008-02-17 Water: NAWAPA Cockamamy schemes of the First Order, compiled by Maggie Paquet.). We have the power; we are many more in numbers than they are. But the only way our power can be exercised is if a critical mass of people have the information.
I am honored to be working with people like Maggie and you.