Water board replaced
Greater regional representation will be mandate of new Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Working Group

Dane Gibson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 15/99) - All water licence applications currently in progress and all existing water licences in the MacKenzie Valley region will soon be controlled by a comprehensive, regionally represented board.

The Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Working Group (MVLWWG) will take the place of the current NWT Water Board. Executive director Jim McCaul said the new board means regional representation and more local control on land-use and water decisions.

"This will allow us to deal with trans-boundary issues and licensing issues in the unsettled claim areas. It will allow the people the opportunity to control their own destinies," McCaul said.

"It's going to be interesting because we're putting in place a new process."

He said the board will be made up of five Sahtu regional representatives, two federal representatives and one chair.

As well, there will be one member from each of the unsettled claim areas -- North Slave, South Slave and the Deh Cho -- for a total of 17 members.

The board will also issue all land-use permits in the unsettled land-claim areas -- something currently handled by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

"This is something that was done for the well-being of the occupants of the Mackenzie Valley. It's something that was driven by land claims. The concept has been around since the '80s," McCaul said.

A water licence is the main regulatory instrument that allows development in the territories -- no licence, no operation. The environmental legislation was enacted under the mandate -- if you take water from the environment, it must be returned at a reasonable level of quality.

Current NWT Water Board vice-chair, Melody McLeod, was appointed to the board and elected as chair. She said she'll be working with excellent support staff, both administratively and technically, and a well-informed, knowledgable board.

"What we're undertaking is a critical movement from what has historically occurred in that the MVLWWG will allow grass-roots involvement on issues pertaining to both sustainable and unsustainable resources."

She said the board is currently working with DIAND Minister Jane Stewart to announce a proclamation date for the official hand-over.