Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City's Shoal Lake water plans under the microscope

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AN international commission has informed Winnipeg officials their plan to extend water pipes to neighbouring municipalities is "inconsistent" with a century-old agreement over Shoal Lake.

The City of Winnipeg announced this week it has put off a plan to extend water pipes into the rural municipalities of Rosser and West St. Paul after receiving a letter from the International Joint Commission (IJC), a Canada-U.S. body that prevents and resolves cross-border water disputes. A report to council, released Monday, said the IJC has undisclosed "issues" with the city's plan.

Winnipeg officials said the commission wants to know whether the city's service-sharing plan complies with a 98-year-old agreement governing Shoal Lake, the source of Winnipeg's drinking water.

A copy of the letter obtained by the Free Press reveals the commission raised concerns Winnipeg was given permission to draw water from Shoal Lake "exclusively" for city residents. In a letter dated Sept. 20, commission officials said the water is not to be shared beyond Winnipeg's municipal boundary.

"The provision of this water to neighbouring municipalities for the purposes of revenue generation appears to be inconsistent with the terms and conditions of the order," the letter states.

Ontario gave Winnipeg permission to draw water from Shoal Lake for municipal purposes in an order in council in 1913, and the federal government and the International Joint Commission also issued water-taking authorizations in 1913 and 1914.

Most of Shoal Lake is located in Ontario near Kenora.

City officials declined further comment on the matter on Tuesday.

A city administrative report recommends Winnipeg officials ask the commission for an expedited decision on their plan to extend water pipes to neighbouring municipalities.

Council's executive policy committee will review the report at a special meeting this morning.

Earlier this year, two Ontario First Nations situated along Shoal Lake launched a court challenge against the city's move.

Iskatewizaagegan No. 39 First Nation and Shoal Lake No. 40 argue Winnipeg must obtain their consent but have failed to do so.

 

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 12, 2012 A5

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Updated on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 7:41 AM CST: Adds art.

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