Environmentalists and fishers are furious at Québec’s decision to allow a company in which it holds shares to extract millions of litres of water from a salmon-bearing river on Anticosti Island to support oil and gas fracking activities there.
The decision may also set up a confrontation with the federal government.
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Last week, the province approved a request from Hydrocarbures Anticosti to remove more than 30 million litres of water from two salmon-bearing streams on the St. Lawrence River island, in order to conduct three hydrofracturing operations to test for hydrocarbons. One of the waterways to be tapped shelters nearly 30% of the island’s entire Atlantic salmon spawning population, according to Le Devoir.
Fishers in the St. Lawrence are “outraged” by the decision, the paper reports. “These withdrawals represent a serious menace to the already precarious survival of Atlantic salmon in Anticosti rivers,” the Québec Federation for Atlantic Salmon warned in a statement.
Atlantic salmon are federally protected as an endangered species, but Le Devoir reports the Québec government did not approach the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans for its input before issuing the permit for the water withdrawals.
Premier Philippe Couillard admitted he was “unhappy” with the outcome, but blamed the decision on a contract signed in 2014 by the previous Parti Québécois government. The province had received encouragement from the federal government of the day to acquire 35% of Hydrocarbures Anticosti for $57.7 million and fund its exploration program, which is to be completed by the end of 2017.
“The contract is what it is, we have to follow it,” said Couillard. “That’s what we’re doing.”
Couillard’s government itself has also signed agreements that pumped funds from Investissement Québec into another Anticosti Island fracking operation, owned by Petrolia, and into that company’s operations on the Gaspé peninsula.
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