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Alberta

High Level Fire Update

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From the Province of Alberta

Update 1: Northwest Alberta wildfire (May 21 at 4:50 p.m.)

Wildfire efforts continue near High Level in Mackenzie County. States of local emergency remain in effect, with residents under a mandatory evacuation order.

Current situation

  • The Chuckegg Creek Wildfire is burning approximately five kilometres south of the Town of High Level within Mackenzie County.
  • This out-of-control wildfire is almost 80,000 hectares.
  • Alberta Wildfire, Alberta Emergency Management Agency and local authorities are cooperating in the response.
  • Alberta Wildfire has about 90 firefighters and staff on the ground, supported by 25 helicopters, air tankers, 10 structural protection units and heavy machinery.
  • Hot and dry conditions in northern Alberta are forecast to continue for the foreseeable future, with the fire danger expected to increase.
  • Evacuation orders are in place for the Town of High Level and parts of Mackenzie County south of High Level.
  • Dene Tha’ First Nation declared an evacuation order for Bushe River and Meander River. Chateh is under an evacuation alert, with high-risk individuals being evacuated.
  • Approximately 5,000 people have been evacuated.

Registration centres

  • Registration centres are open at:
    • Slave Lake Legacy Centre (400 6 Avenue)
      • Hotels in Slave Lake are currently at capacity.
    • High Prairie Sports Palace (5409 49 Street)
    • Grande Prairie Regional College (10726 106 Avenue)
    • Peace River Misery Mountain Ski Hill (10408 89 Street)
    • La Crete Heritage Centre (25411 TWP RD 1060, south of La Crete)
  • Residents are asked to please check in with a registration centre, even if they are staying with family or friends, or finding alternate accommodations. You should also register with Red Cross online or by phone at 1-800-863-6582 to get help with urgent needs.

Highway closures

  • Highway 35 remains closed between five kilometres and 30 kilometres south of High Level. Highway 697 La Crete Ferry is identified as a detour. La Crete Ferry is operational with wait times of approximately one hour.
  • Highway 58 from High Level to approximately 90 kilometres from the junction with Range Road 45A remains closed.

Other information

  • High Level Court is closed. All scheduled Fort Vermilion matters will be heard in Peace River. Call 780-624-6256 if you’re unable to appear to register your name and phone number. Matters will be held by phone if necessary.
  • Alberta Health Services has issued a special air quality statement.

Detailed information is available on emergency.alberta.ca, which is updated frequently.

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Alberta

Retired Oil Field Worker sparks national conversation with his pitch for a new route to move Alberta Oil

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The following Opinion piece comes from local writer / editorialist (and former oil field worker) Garfield Marks. 

We have not been able to run our bitumen through a pipeline to a refinery in New Brunswick. There has been resistance in parts of Ontario and in Quebec. What if we came up with another plan. Would we consider it? There will be road blocks, but not insurmountable, would we consider it?
Yes how about Thunder Bay?
Thunder Bay, Ontario, the largest Canadian port of the St. Lawrence Seaway located on the west end of Lake Superior, 1850 kms. from Hardisty, Alberta. A forgotten jewel.
So what, you may ask. 
They used to ship grain from Thunder Bay in huge tankers to ports all over the world. Why not oil?
The Saint Lawrence Seaway ships fuel, gasoline and diesel tankers, to this day.
We could run oil tankers to the Irving refinery in New Brunswick, bypassing the controversial pipeline running through eastern Ontario and Quebec.
The pipeline, if that was the transport model chosen, would only need to run through parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Like, previously stated the pipeline would only be 1850 kms. long. 
The other great thing about Thunder Bay is the abundance of rail lines. Transportation for such things as grain and forestry products from western Canada. If you can’t run pipeline from Hardisty, through to Thunder Bay, use the railroad.
Why Hardisty, you may ask.
Hardisty, according to Wikipedia,  is mainly known as a pivotal petroleum industry hub where petroleum products such as Western Canada Select blended crude oil and Hardisty heavy oil are produced, stored and traded.
The Town of Hardisty owes its very existence to the Canadian Pacific Railway. About 1904 the surveyors began to survey the railroad from the east and decided to locate a divisional point at Hardisty because of the good water supply from the river. 
Hardisty, Alberta has the railroad and has the product, the storage capacity, and the former Alberta government planned on investing $3.7 billion in rail cars for hauling oil while Thunder Bay has the railroad and an under utilised port at the head of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Economics are there along with opportunity, employment would be created and the east coast could end its’ dependency on imported oil. 
Do we have the vision or willingness to consider another option. I am just asking for all avenues to be considered.
In my interviews in Ontario there is a willingness to discuss this idea. 
The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation is still reviewing the idea of shipping crude oil from western Canada through its system, and it’s a long way from happening, according to Bruce Hodgson, the Seaway’s director of market development.
“Obviously, there needs to be an ongoing commitment on the part of a producer, and so that’s going to be required for any project of this nature,” he said. 

We could consider it, could we not?
CBC NEWS did a story about this idea on March 7 2019;
A retired oil field worker in Alberta has “floated” a novel solution to Alberta’s oil transportation woes: pipe the bitumen to Thunder Bay, Ont., then ship it up the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Irving oil refinery in New Brunswick.
Marks’ proposal might be more than a pipe dream, according to the director of the Queen’s Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy.
‘I don’t think that it’s a totally nuts idea’
“I don’t think that it’s a totally nuts idea,” Warren Mabee said. “I think that there’s some flaws to it … but this is an idea that could work in certain circumstances and at certain times of year. … It’s not the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.”
The chief executive officer of the Port of Thunder Bay said shipping oil from the port “could easily be done.” 
“We ship refined gasoline and diesel up from Sarnia. We’ve done that for many many years,” Tim Heney told CBC. “So it’s not something that’s that far-fetched.”
There are, however, plenty of potential drawbacks to shipping crude through the Seaway, Mabee explained, not least of which is the fact that it isn’t open year-round.

The need to store oil or redirect it during the winter months could be costly, he said.
Potential roadblocks
Another potential pitfall is capacity, he added; there may not be enough of the right-sized tankers available to carry the oil through the Seaway. 
Finally, he said, the journey by sea from Lake Superior to the Irving refinery in New Brunswick is a long one, so it might make more sense to transport the product to a closer facility such as the one in Sarnia, Ont.
The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation is still reviewing the idea of shipping crude oil from western Canada through its system, and it’s a long way from happening, according to Bruce Hodgson, the Seaway’s director of market development.
“Obviously, there needs to be an ongoing commitment on the part of a producer, and so that’s going to be required for any project of this nature,” he said. 
So far, no producer has come forward seeking to ship crude through Thunder Bay, he said. 

Asked about the possible environmental risks of shipping oil on Lake Superior, both Hodgson and Heney said shipping by tanker is relatively safe; Hodgson noted that any tankers carrying the product would have to be double-hulled, and crews are heavily vetted. 
Time to rethink pipelines?
There hasn’t been a spill in the Seaway system for more than 20 years he said. 
Nonetheless, Mabee said, the potential for an oil spill on the Great Lakes could be a huge issue. 
“The St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes have a lot of people living in close proximity, a lot of people who rely on it for drinking water,” he said. “There’s a delicate ecosystem there. I think a lot of people would push back against this proposal simply from that perspective.”
In fact, one of the reasons Mabee appreciates Marks’ proposal, he said, is because it invites people to weigh the pros and cons of different methods of transporting oil. 
“If we’re not going to build pipelines, but we’re going to continue to use oil, it means that people are going to be looking at some of these alternative transport options,” he said.

“And if we don’t want oil on those alternative transport options, we need to give the pipelines another thought.

Time to consider all options, I dare say.

​Garfield Marks​

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Alberta

Joint Police Operation seizes 2 million in drugs and cash, bringing down a BC-Alberta drug “pipeline”

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From ALERT (Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team) : Several Albertans arrested

Project Elder Disrupts B.C.-Alberta Drug Pipeline

 A two-year investigation by ALERT has cut off a drug pipeline between British Columbia and Alberta. More than $2 million in drugs and cash was seized and a dozen suspects have been arrested.

Project Elder was an ALERT Edmonton investigation that probed interprovincial, wholesale drug distribution. ALERT alleges that a high volume of drugs were being shipped to Alberta involving a complex scheme that included vehicles equipped with hidden compartments.

ALERT alleges the drugs were being shipped to Edmonton and Calgary with further distribution points across the province.

“Organized crime groups don’t respect borders, which is why we need agencies like ALERT that work with law enforcement partners in other jurisdictions to investigate, disrupt and dismantle serious criminal activity such as organized crime and illegal drug trafficking. I want to thank investigators from ALERT and the other organizations involved in Project Elder for their outstanding and tireless work on this long and complex operation that maintains Albertans’ confidence in our law enforcement agencies’ abilities to ensure they are safe, secure and protected in their communities,” said Hon. Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General.

Project Elder concluded on June 5, 2019, with several arrests taking place. Additional arrests and search warrants were staggered over the course of the investigation and took place in Edmonton, Calgary, Innisfail, and Vancouver.

Two homes, two businesses and multiple vehicles were searched. The drugs alone have an estimated street value of $1.5 million. Items seized include:

  • 9.3 kilograms of cocaine;
  • 17.2 kilograms of a cocaine buffing agent;
  • 6.0 kilograms of methamphetamine;
  • 684 grams of fentanyl powder;
  • $514,335 cash;
  • a handgun with suppressor and expanded magazine; and
  • 5 vehicles with hidden compartments.

ALERT used a number of sophisticated techniques and specialized resources to dismantle the group. Project Elder relied heavily on the assistance of: Edmonton Police Service; CFSEU-BC; North Vancouver RCMP; RCMP E-Division; Innisfail RCMP; RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime; and Alberta Sheriffs surveillance team.

Project Elder dates back to March 2017 when investigators targeted an Edmonton-based drug trafficking group. ALERT was able to expand the scope of that initial investigation and identified the group’s suspected B.C.-based supplier.

ALERT alleges that Neil Kravets coordinated the supply of drugs from B.C. and oversaw the group’s activities. The 28-year-old man from North Vancouver has subsequently been charged with instructing a criminal organization, among a host of other charges.

Eleven suspects with Kravets’s alleged drug network were arrested, many of whom were charged with participation in a criminal organization and conspiracy to traffic cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl.

A total of 59 charges have been laid against:

  • Neil Kravets, 28, from North Vancouver;
  • Brandon Worsley, 29, from Edmonton;
  • Joseph Nicholson, 29, from Airdrie;
  • Brandon Brown, 22, from Edmonton;
  • Richard Sansoucy, 56, from Edmonton;
  • Gregory Ewald, 44, from Edmonton;
  • Fayiz Moghrabi, 28, from Vancouver;
  • Randolph Chalifoux, 37, from Edmonton;
  • Suk Han, 35, from Vancouver;
  • Andy Estrada, 29, from Edmonton;
  • Daniel Estrada Sr., 58, from Edmonton; and
  • Moshe Banin, 31, from Edmonton;

Members of the public who suspect drug or gang activity in their community can call local police, or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers is always anonymous.

ALERT was established and is funded by the Alberta Government and is a compilation of the province’s most sophisticated law enforcement resources committed to tackling serious and organized crime. Members of Calgary Police Service, Edmonton Police Service, Lethbridge Police Service, Medicine Hat Police Service, and RCMP work in ALERT.

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