Conserve Kananaskis (@conservekananskis)
July 7, 2020: first published
July 8, 2020: linked AWA article
July 20, 2020: added quote, local water-act
August 9, 2020: FMH additional extension, no public consult (new docs June 2020, June 2019, Dec 2019)
August 17, 2020: FMH approved for ATV/quad hiking; water being sold now
August 26, 2020: Sprawl Calgary article; brewery using water
October 16, 2020: New lease issued (and wording changes); lobby BDC;
November 5, 2020: re-write; previous version.
December 14, 2020: inconsistent statements from Nixon re: ACO.
Thank you for reading this letter and for taking action! This letter details Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) recent approval to allow Fortress Mountain Holdings (FMH) to sell water. My goal is to stop this commercial sale of water in Kananaskis Country, Alberta. #keepthewaterinthecreek
Other articles about FMH selling water:
- “Stoney Nakoda take Alberta to court over water sale” .. ‘Alberta really is acting like it’s 1492.’
- “Fortress Mountain water could be sold infused with cannabis” by Drew Anderson for CBC
- “Fortress Mountain and the Sale of Water from Kananaskis Country” by Shaun Fluker, Associate Professor of Law
- “A letter to Minister Nixon” from the Alberta Wilderness Association
- “ Fortress Mountain and the False Promise of Public Participation in Alberta” by Shaun Fluker for the Alberta Wilderness Association Journal
Fortress Mountain Holdings is located in Kananaskis Country Alberta. FMH operated as a ski resort until its closure in Dec, 2004. The current owners have been trying to re-open as a ski resort since July, 2010. On Oct.25th, 2019 FMH received approval to sell 50 million litres of mountain creek water per year. This approval was appealed by the Stoney Nakoda Nation. That appeal was denied. The Stoney Nakoda Nation have taken Alberta to court (which has yet to be heard).
The water is being trucked out of this basin in the heart of Kananaskis Country by tanker truck at the rate of up to 15 trucks per day. The water is driven to Rapid Ascent Brewery in Calgary to be sold as Rok Glacier Water as well as being used in Rapid Ascent’s beers (proof #1 & proof #2). Yes, this means 15,000kg tanker trucks are doing the job that the river currently does without diesel fumes nor collision risk to drivers & wildlife.
FMH is a Provincial Crown Lease that was originally granted in 1968. Spray Valley and Peter Lougheed Provincial Parks that now surround the Fortress Lease were founded in 1978. This map shows the Fortress lease surrounded on all sides by Provincial Parks.
I’m calling on The Honorable Mr. Jason Nixon (Environment Minister) to cancel the Fortress Lease to make the lands a Provincial Park. This would include the cessation of selling water by Fortress Mountain Holdings.
The original conservekananaskis content & backstory detailing Alberta Environment and Parks' decision to allow FMH to sell water.
I’m calling for AEP to create a Provincial Park on the Fortress Lands and rescind both the FMH operational lease as well as the water licence amendment for 7 reasons:
- Trucking 50 million litres of water per year from Kananaskis Country creates needless pollution as well as posing a vehicular risk to recreating Albertans and Wildlife.
The Stoney Nakoda Nation does not agree with the water being
sold nor with the lack of consultation by Alberta. The Stoney
Nakoda Nation have taken Alberta to court and the case is pending.
These judicial proceedings are in part because Alberta did not consult the Stoney Nakoda Nation on the water amendment, which is a requirement under Treaty 6, 7 and 8 rights. Marlin Schmidt (MLA Environment critic) wrote a letter to Jason Nixon to ensure any new lease by FMH would have ACO (Aboriginal Consultation Office) involvement. Mr. Nixon's office replied saying, “As of November 2, 2020, the department has not received an application from Fortress Mountain Resort for a 60-year tourism and commercial lease(TCL).” In a Dec.1 update from FMH to AEP, FMH said, “In August we embarked on the TCL process which will allow for up to 60 year leases with the hiring of Britt Land Mgmt. At last check our application was stalled with ACO for the last ten weeks. We attach a letter from Minister Nixon on this topic to a concerned Albertan. We were pleased to read his take on the process which clearly states consultation is NOT required for existing disposition holders. How can we implement this on the ground to achieve the desired result to bring our lease term into balance with the rest of our industry?”
So, Mr. Nixon says no application received as of November 2, yet FMH says they started the application in August... Also, at the same time that Alberta is facing judicial proceedings by the Stoney Nakoda Nation for, in part, not consulting them on the water amendment application, Jason Nixon is saying that they do not need to consult them on this latest application.
- The terms & conditions of both the original 2010 FMH lease and its newly issued (July 2020) one are not being complied with. These leases state: “The Disposition holder shall only use the lands for a winter alpine and ski resort facilities;” Selling water as well as summer ATV-shuttled hiking are not in keeping with those terms & conditions. I asked AEP about this in an email, which they did not answer.
- FMH selling water is not in compliance with the Alberta Water Act. The Alberta Water Act states: “To promote conservation of Water: An application for amendment for change of purpose (exactly what FMH did) may only apply to water that is being used under the licence at the time of application, or, to promote conservation of water, has been used by the licensee in the previous 3 years...” FMH has not used water in the last 16 years! I asked AEP why the Water Act was ignored; they did not answer the question (see email). In FMH's 253 page application they state on page 3: “The chairlifts and daylodge at Fortress have been closed to the public since approximately December 2004 and as such there has been no water usage. The Government of Alberta (through AEP) knew and understood that there would be no (or limited) use until the new chair lifts and new Daylodge are completed.”
- FMH has been unable to open the ski resort for over a decade. FMH took possession of the original lease July 2010 and were mandated to open as a ski resort on december 31, 2013. That did not happen. They were then mandated to open by December 31, 2016. That did not happen. FMH signed yet another amendment saying they would open as a ski resort December 31, 2017. That did not happen. FMH was then mandated to open by December 31, 2020. That did not happen. FMH is currently mandated to open as a ski resort by Dec.31 2023. Yes, FMH have missed 4 contractually agreed upon deadlines and are currently on their 5th!
- Finance is FMH's “biggest challenge” (source). The most recent lease issued to FMH by AEP states that: “The Regulatory Body may cancel this disposition immediately if: ...d) in the regulatory body’s opinion, the Disposition Holder is insolvent.” FMH, in a June 2020 updateto AEP, stated: “To sum up, finance is now our biggest challenge…” In that same update FMH asked AEP to return a $200,000 security deposit “...to assist with short term cash...”
- Summer use at Fortress (water hauling and ATV-shuttled hiking) go against the recommendations of AEPs own Alberta Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan. The original Fortress Lease allowed for winter use only (when bears are hibernating). This wildlife study confirmed the following animals in the Fortress lease: Grizzly bear, black bear, grey wolves, coyote, lynx, cougar, martin, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, moose, many other smaller animals, 21 bird species and 4 bat species. The report states that 7 different Grizzlies were present in the Fortress Lease and that one female Grizzly denned within the lease area. Grizzlies are a threatened species in Alberta. The Alberta Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan states that one of the primary causes of Grizzly Bear mortality is “accidental collision with highway vehicles.” This AEP biologist had concerns over animal-water tanker truck interactions on the Fortress road. AEP has allowed up to 15 tanker trucks per day to haul water from Fortress.. “Key recommendations of this (Grizzly) recovery plan include: Controlling access development and use, and other human activities in grizzly bear habitat” In this email AEP said: “...the area in and around Fortress Mountain is considered critical Grizzly Bear habitat.“
In summary, I feel these 7 facts clearly justify rescinding both the water licence amendment and ski resort lease and creating a Provincial Park on the Fortress Lands. Clause 20 in the Fortress lease states: “...the Regulatory Body, in its sole discretion, may order the Disposition Holder to: D) Vacate the lands“
Creating a Provincial Park would help protect the vitally important headwaters of our drinking water as well as threatened wildlife.
What you can do: Write to the Honorable Mr. Jason Nixon, Environment Minister and express your desire for Fortress Provincial Park to be created. CC your local MLA, The honorable Mr. Marlin Schmidt, Environment Critic and the Honorable Rachel Notley opposition leader.
Marlin Schmidt: Edmonton.Goldbar@assembly.ab.ca
Rachel Notley: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s a copy of the letter I sent to Mr. Nixon. Please feel free to use it (the personal intro will need to be changed).
* These documents are all part of the public record and were obtained under Alberta’s FOIP Act or through the Alberta Records Management office.