Assessing regulators' information needs to make decisions regarding cumulative effects under the MVRMA

Regions: Gwich'in Settlement Area, Sahtu Settlement Area, Dehcho Region, North Slave Region

Tags: social sciences, water quality, cumulative effects, governance

Principal Investigator: Noble, Bram F (5)
Licence Number: 15957
Organization: University of Saskatchewan
Licenced Year(s): 2018 2017 2016
Issued: Sep 09, 2016
Project Team: Kevin Hanna (Co-investigator, University of British Columbia), Julian Kanigan (Co-investigator, NWT CIMP), Lorainne Brekke (Co-investigator, NWT CIMP), Lindsay Wong (MSc Student Researcher, University of Saskatchewan), Lauren Arnold (MA Student Researcher, University of British Columbia)

Objective(s): To determine what information regulators require about cumulative effects or conditions in order to make informed decisions regarding development impacts to water quality in the NWT.

Project Description: This project will determine what information regulators require about cumulative effects or conditions in order to make informed decisions regarding development impacts to water quality in the Northwest Territories (NWT), and whether and how that information is, or can be, provided through NWT Cumulative Impacts Monitoring Program (CIMP) or other agencies responsible for monitoring. The objectives are as follows:

1. To identify what type(s) of information decision-makers need regarding cumulative impacts to water quality to make a decision under Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act (MVMRA);

2. To assess the nature and availability of existing data and indicators of water quality relative to regulator needs, and compatibility among data sets, to assess changes in, or threats to water quality, to support cumulative effects decisions, thereby also identifying key data/ information gaps; and

3. To identify what type(s) of decision support tools would assist decision making by regulators (e.g. scenarios using an effects/stressor based approach).

The research design consists of a combination of semi-structured interviews and survey-based research design, complemented with document content analysis.

OBJECTIVE 1:
Data collection will consist of semi-structured interviews with approximately 12 to 15 regulators and their support teams from each of the MVEIRB, Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board (MVLWB), Gwich’in Land and Water Board (GLWB), Sahtu Land and Water Board (SLWB) and the Wek’eezhii Land and Water Board (WLWB). This will be complemented by a review of a sample of up to 10 recent Reports of Environmental Assessment (REA) and Reasons for Decisions (RFD) for Type A water licences to determine what information was used in the decision making processes. Semi-structured interviews will be approximately 90 minutes in length, digitally recorded to support analysis, and conducted by the student researchers. Participants will be identified with the support of NWT CIMP staff. Interviews will focus on such issues as i) considerations given to cumulative impacts; ii) how these considerations influence decisions; iii) information needs to make decisions regarding aquatic cumulative impacts; iv) availability and accessibility of information; v) challenges to the provision or use of this information, and possible solutions; and vi) type(s) information and format most meaningful to make decisions.

OBJECTIVE 2:
The research team will work with NWT CIMP staff to identify existing biophysical and disturbance data sets that have contributed to EA and Regulatory decisions, including those identified in REAs and RFDs.
A protocol for reviewing and assessing data sets will be developed. Data sets will be reviewed to determine how easily they can be merged for the purpose of assessing cumulative effects (e.g., similarity in recorded parameters, sampling, detection limits, period of record, units of measurement), and examined against decision maker needs / considerations. Additionally, Type A Water Licences will be reviewed to determine which water quality parameters are consistently required, and if the required sampling frequency and reporting of these parameters is consistent. This review will be complemented by a web-based survey, using Fluid Surveys, of data managers and users (NWT CIMP, Water Resource and Environment Canada staff members, EA practitioners, n = 30) to assess use, ease of access, and data challenges regarding cumulative effects. Results will be assessed using descriptive and exploratory statistics, according to sample size.

OBJECTIVE 3
Data collection will consist of semi-structured interviews with approximately 12 to 15 regulators and their support teams from each of the MVEIRB, MVLWB, GLWB, SLWB, and the WLWB following the same approach as Objective 1.

This project is focused on regulatory decisions for assessing and managing cumulative effects, and the nature and quality of monitoring data available to support regulatory decisions.

An annual report will be provided to NWT CIMP, and the Discovery Portal, and a poster will be provided for the annual NWT CIMP results workshop. A draft report will be provided to study participants for their review and further input, prior to general dissemination of research results to the broader public. A final project report and NWT Environmental Research Bulletin will be provided to NWT CIMP and the NWT Discovery Portal, in addition to the final data set resulting from the interviews and web-based surveys. A presentation of the results will be provided as a webinar presentation to the Western and Northern Canada affiliate of the International Association for Impact Assessment in 2018-19.

All results and communication tools and products (plain language, government and technical reports, peer-reviewed publications, posters and presentations) will be provided to NWT CIMP and uploaded to the NWT Discovery Portal

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from September 11, 2016 to September 30, 2016.