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Decision on Water Act expected this summer

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

A decision on Hinton’s water act application for the Beaver Boardwalk is estimated to be made in four to eight weeks, according to Jason Penner, Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) communication advisor.

AEP received three statements of concern following a public notice of the water act application that included plans to maintain certain sections of the Beaver Boardwalk.

The town is now waiting for a response from AEP on those statements of concern before town administration can work together with the filers of those statements.

How the town will work with each of those filers will depend on the content of the concerns and whether the concerns prevent all, or just portions of the plan from moving forward, explained Josh Yaworski, public information officer.

Also considered would be the direction and expected alterations given by EAP, he said.

The Town of Hinton and Associated Engineering’s Environment department submitted the application for a water act approval on Oct. 28, 2019 to AEP.

The first step by AEP was to review the application for administrative completeness.

This was followed by the public notice where the Town of Hinton was asked to provide a notice of the application in the form and manner and within the time period specified by the AEP director under the Water Act, stated Jess Sinclair, AEP press secretary.

The time period in which AEP accepted applications was between April 16 and April 23.

“Typically, the notice of application is advertised in the local newspaper and/or posted electronically on Environment and Parks’ online registry,” said Sinclair.

Any person directly affected by the application was asked to submit a statement of concern to the AEP director within the time period specified in the notice. 

Those statements are then reviewed to determine validity under the statement of concern policy.

“Our approvals people have not yet made a decision on “directly affected” regarding these statement of concern filers. That would be the next step,” said Jason Penner, AEP communication advisor.

The decision on who qualifies as someone who is directly affected will affect the timeline of the final decision on the application.

Reasons someone may be directly affected include impacts to recreational access.

If the filer of any statements is found to be directly affected, the department will direct the applicant, which is the Town of Hinton and Associated Engineering, to work with the concerned party to reasonably address the concerns. 

This needs to be done before next steps are taken.

Concerns in the statements that were submitted by locals included the lack of specifics in the work plan, the lack of any mitigation strategies for damage to the area, the lack of specific maintenance and removal of the boardwalk, the misinformation of fish and rare animals in the area, the change of the wetland value from A to B, the Migratory Bird Convention Act, the use of heavy machinery in conditions other than frozen, the unrealistic request for approval end date of 15 years, and the lack of reference to existing impacts, such as the bridge.

The third step in the approval process is a technical review that may require referrals from internal subject matter experts.

The application would be sent to experts, which could include wetland specialists, fisheries biologists, hydrologists, hydrogeologists, or river engineering.

A decision based on the review findings is step four and the applicant and directly affected parties are then notified.

If the applicant or directly affected parties object to the decision, they can appeal the decision to the Environmental Appeals Board.

In the meantime, the Beaver Boardwalk (BeBo) committee is working towards a plan once the application is approved.

Parks staff are prepared to start on some repairs as soon as the application is approved, Yaworski stated.

If some edits to the maintenance plan are required by AEP, Hinton Parks will adjust their maintenance accordingly.

Read all public statements of concern through the links below. All personal information has been redacted by Alberta Environment and Parks before the documents were made public.