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Residents concerned over Koch project near Beaverdam

Residents concerned over the proposed Koch Exploration oilsands project near Angling Lake gathered this past Saturday at Beaverdam Hall to hear a lawyer discuss how they can proceed with their concerns.
Lawyer Bill McElhanney fields questions from residents during the meeting about the proposed Koch oilsands project.
Lawyer Bill McElhanney fields questions from residents during the meeting about the proposed Koch oilsands project.

Residents concerned over the proposed Koch Exploration oilsands project near Angling Lake gathered this past Saturday at Beaverdam Hall to hear a lawyer discuss how they can proceed with their concerns.

Joyce Kathan owns a quarter along the lake and along with her son, Larry, hired a lawyer to represent their interests.

"We really felt we needed to look into this in some depth and have the appropriate guidance and legal counselling as well as the other expertise in the other fields," said Larry Kathan.

Koch has filed an application with the ERCB and Alberta Environment for its proposed Gemini Oil Sands project in the Beaverdam area.

The project would produce 10,000 barrels of bitumen daily through steam assisted gravity drainage. The first stage would include one well pad and a processing facility, while the second phase would see the addition of more well pads.

Kathan said they are concerned with the project as its proposed location is right along the lake and involves new technology.

"We know there are a lot of concerned citizens but they have to step up and do something. It is very important for them to get involved."

Lawyer Bill McElhanney explained to residents how the ERCB has not yet approved the project and is looking at whether there should be a hearing.

He said he is reasonably confident there will be an ERCB hearing based on the project's proximity to residents and discussed the nature of an intervener status at a hearing.

McElhanney said if other people get on board, there can sometimes be a power in numbers approach and explained how peoples' concerns create a "push back." He said their voices could help address issues that could have been overlooked and make it into a better project.

"And sometimes the board will deny the project," he added.

David Mooney lives northeast of Highway 22 and is worried about the value of properties in the area declining.

"I have quite a concern with this," he said.

Mooney is worried about his well water becoming contaminated and the effects of fracking.

Karen Collins lives on the Elizabeth Metis Settlement and has grown up in the area and continues to bring her family to Angling Lake.

She is concerned about the potential environmental impacts of the project on water and air quality, vegetation, wildlife, and fish.

Collins also worries about the cumulative effects of a variety of oilsands projects in the area and questions how inter-provincial departments complement each other's information -"because air doesn't stop at the border, neither do the animals," she explained.

"So for me it's the bigger picture of the effects."

Collins said she is not convinced the proposed brackish water source is the closest option and is concerned about the pipeline's impact on the land.

"You can't tell me at the end of the day this is not all disturbance. Doing a pipeline is causing disturbance."

She said she has seen reclamation projects where the grass of an affected area is a different colour than the nearby grass.

She said she was taught by elders that the water sources are all connected and believes water taken from another nearby source will affect the Beaver River.

Collins wants the company to work with the aboriginal community and conduct a traditional use study, noting how the area was once traditional territory and how elders could know about old, unmarked burial grounds.