CEMA updates wetland guide

An environmental group that provides policy advice to industry and government has updated its guide to reclaiming wetlands.

The Cumulative Environmental Management Association has released their updated wetlands reclamation guide. The manuscript, now on its third edition, was approved by CEMA’s board of directors in September.

“We do this on a regular basis. We review these things and a wetland guide is something we try to do every four to five years,” said CEMA executive director Glen Semenchuk. “What research has been done out there? What new issues has been raised? That’s what we include in our guide.”

Semenchuk says major additions to the document include new research into the relationships between the soil and vegetative cover. The guide also includes research into a watershed-scale approach towards wetland design, and impacts of process-affected water on reclaimed lands.

The data for the guide was taken from research on recent fen and marsh reclamation projects in the oilsands, as well as other reclamation projects from the past 30 years. The entire project cost more than $1 million and involved more than 20 experts in reclamation and related fields from across Canada and the United States.

“It will be Mother Nature that does the final reclamation in the oilsands, but we will have to deal with things like climate change. If you want to get that composition back, you have to start with the basics,” said Semenchuk. “All we are doing is adding to the knowledge base. It’s a refinement of the recipe.”

CEMA was established in 2001 by former premier Ralph Klein, mandated to address the environmental footprint of the oil industry. The agency is composed of stakeholders from the aboriginal community, as well as government, industry and non-governmental representatives.

In order for a policy to pass, it must have unanimous support from stakeholders on its board of directors before it can be submitted to the government.

The McMurray Metis have given a conditional approval to the document, although the group had concerns regarding the process CEMA used to include traditional knowledge. In a letter, the group sent CEMA four recommendations for an addendum.

They include a chapter on aboriginal traditional knowledge, and bringing a wildlife biologist and expert from ESRD to complete a "cold eyes review" of the guide's habitat reclamation guide.

The letter also suggests CEMA bring in aboriginal authors for the next edition of the guide, and that researchers work with all aboriginal groups in the oilsands area to understand different indigenous perspectives.

"(McMurray Metis) remains optimistic that the recommendations above can be addressed thereby strengthening the Aboriginal content within an already technically strong Wetlands Guide," writes McMurray Metis general manager Kyle Harrietha.

Semenchuk says the document has included aboriginal voices, but the participatory role McMurray Metis wanted did not exist.

“This edition makes more of an emphasis on traditional knowledge for formulating reclamation plans,” he said. “This is one of the things CEMA does well. Everyone is getting into the reclamation business, we’ve just been at it for a long time.”

Vincent McDermott

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