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Cavendish Farms denies secret meetings; proposes independent study of high-capacity wells for P.E.I.


There have been no secret meetings between Cavendish Farms and the government about a high-capacity well proposal, says a spokesman for the company.

Jubs Bristow, Cavendish Farms’ vice-president of agriculture, spoke to The Guardian after the company released details of the project Thursday and a day after the Opposition described it as a “secret proposal”.

Bristow said he disagrees with any suggestion there is a lack of public oversight on the proposal or that Cavendish Farms has an undue influence on the government.

“The people who have been involved will vouch for that," he said.

The Cavendish Farms proposal involves collaboration between the company and three watershed groups to show what the company called a sustainable approach to irrigation.

Test wells would be in service for several years at sites with no history of irrigation and use modern irrigation equipment.

Each watershed area would have an established irrigation well and a new high-capacity test well as part of the research project.

If there is any adverse impact from a test well on a local water supply, its permit would be revoked and the well decommissioned.

At a glance
Watershed groups involved in the Cavendish Farms project:

  • Kensington North Watersheds Association Inc.
  • Bedeque Bay Environmental Association
  • West Point and Area Watersheds Inc.

The project would study the economic yield of the test fields, the fate of nutrients applied to them, the impact on local water supplies, greenhouse gas production and the impact on local streams.

Cavendish Farms proposes to share all information from the study, including real-time well water data.

The company says the project’s objectives include showing the effective use of modern well monitoring and irrigation technology in a way that ensures the protection of the groundwater supply.

It will also assess how supplemental irrigation can improve the economic productivity of potatoes.

Bristow said Cavendish Farms isn’t looking for government to unilaterally lift its moratorium on new high-capacity wells.

He also said nobody the company met with has been asked to endorse irrigation.

“What we’re asking people to do is collaborate with us on independent, credible, sustainable research because we do not want to be impacting the aquafer in a negative way or putting individual households or people’s livelihoods with their water resource at risk.”

The idea is to have research wells to get credible data using the newest and latest technology to see what the impact would be, Bristow said.

“Only after that research is done, then look at now, is it feasible to lift the moratorium to certain levels and/or to lift the moratorium in certain watershed areas under a managed program.”

Bristow said the industry is facing challenges with drought conditions putting pressure on yields, and less rainfall is going to become the norm as climate change progresses.

Cavendish Farms understands water is a public resource, and it will be a collaborative effort to do sustainable research, Bristow said, as he listed several organizations the company met with to discuss the proposal.

Those groups included the Environment Department, UPEI, the PC and Green parties, the P.E.I. Potato Board, some potato growers, the Canadian Rivers Institute and the three watershed groups that will be involved in the study.

Bristow said the next step is to wait for the government to approve the research project so the company can proceed with doing scientific testing.

Cavendish Farms is willing to meet with the government or any of the interested parties so it can continue with the research project, he said.

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