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: water quality, social sciences, governance, cumulative effects

Principal Investigator: Noble, Bram F (5)
Licence Number: 16236
Organization: University of Saskatchewan
Licensed Year(s): 2018 2017 2016
Issued: Feb 10, 2018

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

Data collection will consist of semi-structured interviews with approximately 12 to 15 regulators and their support teams from each of the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board (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

The research team will work with NWT CIMP staff to identify existing biophysical and disturbance data sets that have contributed to environmental assessment and regulatory decisions, including those identified in REAs and RFDs (e.g. proponent data sets where available; GNWT’s Coppermine and/or Slave River data sets; Environment Canada’s Athabasca and/or Mackenzie River data sets; Inventory of Landscape Change), to develop a protocol for reviewing and assessing data sets. 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 (n = approximately 10) 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.

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.

Communities will be informed of project outcomes and contributions, as per the deliverables and communication plans. Our direct 'community' engagement is through members of the MVEIRB and the Land and Water Boards, who are appointed to represent their regions. All results and communication tools and products (plain language, government and technical reports, peer-reviewed publications, posters and presentations) Including an annual report will be provided to NWT CIMP, and the NWT Discovery Portal, and preliminary results presented at the annual NWT CIMP results workshop.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from February 11, 2018 to September 28, 2018.