Encana acquires right to drill under Swan Lake

Encana Corp. has purchased the rights to drill for natural gas beneath Swan Lake.

The Calgary-based oil and gas company recently bought a parcel that includes gas 2,600 meters below the southern end of Swan Lake, a popular recreation area on the Alberta-British Columbia border.

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It's a move that some nearby residents oppose. 

The Swan Lake Enhancement Society (SLES), a conservation group made up of lakeside residents, says there's no guarantee fracking two kilometers down won't harm the lake and its watershed.

Ducks Unlimited Canada, which owns a conservation area on the lake, has also expressed concern about drilling. The parcel sold in December includes a section of the adjacent Swan Lake provincial park.

SLES president Allen Watson said an Encana representative contacted him shortly after the company bought the parcel.

"They talked to me for an hour trying to assure me that there is no risk to the lake," he said.

Watson said he has asked several elected officials to compensate Encana for the parcel — either financially or with rights to drill in a less sensitive area.

So far, no one has responded to the suggestion, he said. He has also raised the issue with BC NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert. 

"Our mission is to promote good stewardship of the lake and in its watershed," Watson said. "Nobody in the oil and gas industry can guarantee there won't be an accident. Nowhere is that in the terms of good stewardship." 

In December, the provincial natural gas ministry told Alaska Highway News that horizontally drilling beneath the lake posed no risk, adding that another oil and gas company has already drilled beneath the lake's north end without incident.

In November, the provincial government told Swan Lake residents that the gas rights were up for lease in the December auction.

A Calgary-based land broker bought the drilling rights in December for $4.7 million. 

An Encana spokesperson said it's too early to say whether a well will be brought into production.

"We're looking at our drill schedule, and nothing is finalized at this point," said Brian Lieverse. He added that it was still unclear what impact Encana's recently announced $130 million reduction in Montney spending would have on drilling in the area.

Any drilling operation would still have to go through an environmental assessment and a round of First Nations and resident consultation.

SLES and the Oil and Gas Commission are scheduled to meet about drilling under the lake this Sunday.


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