Marian Watershed Community-Based Aquatic Effects Monitoring Program
Principal Investigator: Garner, Kerri (1)
Licence Number: 15352
Organization: Tlicho Government - Department of Culture and Lands Protection
Licenced Year(s): 2013
Issued: Oct 16, 2013
Project Team: Mark Cliffe-Phillips (Water Sampling Lead, Wek'eezhii Land and Water Board), Paul Vescei (Fish Sampling Lead, Golder Associates), Brett Wheler (Field Program Coordinator, Wek'eezhii Land and Water Board), Community Environmental Monitors (Fish and Water Sampling Support and Training, Tlicho Communities)

Objective(s): To design and implement a community-based, regional-scale monitoring program for water quality and aquatic life upstream and downstream of the Fortune NICO site.

Project Description: The Tlicho Lands Moratorium was lifted in June 2013, and development pressure is expected to increase on Tlicho Lands. As Tlicho Lands are in relatively pristine condition, the intent of this study is to begin to collect baseline data at sites prioritized by community members away from specific project footprints in order to analyze the cumulative impacts of development, climate change, and increased access and use on the Marian watershed. Both western and Aboriginal science will be drawn on to obtain a clear picture of baseline conditions in the Marian Watershed. As a joint initiative of the Tlicho Government (TG) and numerous key project partners Community of Behchoko, Wek’èezhìi Land and Water Board (WLWB), Wek’èezhìi Renewable Resource Board (WRRB), Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), Environment and Natural Resources, Munkittrick Lab at the University of New Brunswick, and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, this project will provide data to support project partners in decision-making and management-planning related to future developments, water quality and quantity, fish and aquatic life, and waste management in the Tlicho region.

The specific objectives of the proposed project are:
1) To design and implement a community-based, regional-scale monitoring program for water quality and aquatic life upstream and downstream of the Fortune NICO site.
2) To build community capacity for these types of monitoring;
3) To collect baseline data prior to operation of the proposed Fortune Minerals mine and to continue this data collection in the future in order to consider cumulative impacts of development, land disturbance, and climate change on water quality (and quantity) in the Marian Watershed;
4) To develop a strong communication plan that will report results back to decision makers (communities, WLWB, Tlicho Government, WRRB), Cumulative Impacts Monitoring Program (CIMP), and other partners in a timely and consistent manner.

Methods of fish and water quality monitoring will be consistent with those used by Fortune Minerals and their consultants (Golder) during baseline environmental monitoring in Hislop Lake and the Marian River. Where possible, methods will also be consistent with those used in the WRRB's Tlicho Aquatic Ecosystem Monitoring Program. Random samples of whitefish and northern pike will be collected (as per DFO and Animal Care authorizations), processed, and analyzed for general health and tissue metals. Water quality (grab) and sediment quality (Ekman grab) will be collected approximately 100m upstream and downstream of Burke Creek, which is where water from the proposed Nico mine site enters the Marian River. Samples will be analyzed for metals, nutrients, and physical/major ions; additional samples will be carried/collected for quality assurance and quality control.

The overall goal of this project is to develop a community-based Aquatic Effects Monitoring Program (AEMP) in the Marian Watershed with specific consideration of the future impacts of the proposed Fortune Minerals project (NICO Project EA0809-004) and other future developments. During public hearings, it was made clear that community members are concerned with water quality both upstream and downstream of the Fortune Minerals project. The K’ia Goti (Hislop Lake) area is of great importance to the Tlicho people and the proposed mine site is located in this area, in the middle of Tlicho Lands. Community members from Gamètì, Whatì, and Behchokö expressed concern for this area, as well as areas downstream from the proposed mine to the Marian River, Marian Lake and Behchokö, and Great Slave Lake. The Tlicho Government’s Traditional Knowledge and Use Study (TK Study) completed during the NICO Project Environmental Assessment process emphasizes the perception of risk that Tlicho citizens have of the Rayrock Mine area (located 15 km southeast of the NICO Project), resulting in (1) suspicion that water is not safe, and (2) the reduction in use of this traditionally and culturally important area. The TK Study suggests that the perception of risk is likely to expand to the NICO Project area.

In future years, a direct linkage to the Fortune Minerals NICO Project and the company’s aquatic effects monitoring may become an important part of the project the research team are presently proposing to CIMP; however, it is crucial now for Tlicho citizens (i.e. community members) to define the framework and priorities for aquatic monitoring in the region and to be in control of the program and the data, not merely consulted (however meaningfully) by Fortune a year or two from now when the company develops its own monitoring. The program the research team are proposing will facilitate this central role for Tlicho citizens and, as a result, will produce monitoring results that are believable to Tlicho citizens in order to address both real and perceived risks to the environment.

General information about the project will be communicated to Tlicho citizens by the Tlicho Lands Protection Department and the Community of Behchoko using local radio and the Tlicho Government website. A dedicated workshop will be held in Behchoko to discuss the results of 2013 monitoring and to confirm the needs/expectations of Tlicho citizens for future monitoring. Both Aboriginal and Western Science holders will be asked to attend this workshop to contribute to detailed design of the monitoring plan and to finalize the communications plan for project results in future years.

Key results of 2013 research will also be published in a plain language brochure for distribution in Tlicho communities and an electronic brochure will be posted to the Tlicho Government website.

Project team members will present results at a relevant northern meeting (e.g. Geoscience Forum, CIMP workshop). A year-end report will be produced for CIMP and all partners to inform decision making in the region and will be posted to the Tlicho Government website along with the plain language brochure. Metadata and the final report will also be publicly accessible via the NWT Discovery Portal.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from October 17, 2013 to December 31, 2013.