Cypress County council received an update from the Southern Regional Stormwater Committee (SRSC)on a project update at their Feb. 17 meeting.
SRSC co-chairs Gary Franz and Merril Harris were on the Zoom call with council.
In the last 10 years, the M.D. of Taber and the surrounding area have experienced 5 100-year flood events and as a result has caused millions of dollars in property, farmland and infrastructure damage.
The SRSC was created in 2010 to create a long-term solution to divert water from SMRID canal into the Oldman River.
Franz started the conversation by telling council that there exciting developments including two big projects being taken over by the Irrigation Districts from the seven that were presented to council in the fall from the SRSC.
“The Sauder (Dam at the gateway of the County at Rattlesnake Lake) spillway is our first project we’re going to do actually next year, it’s scheduled,” said Franz.
“We’re engineering it right now and trying to get the permits in place to get that scheduled to move forward next winter and to be complete by next spring. That is a $13-million project and it was scheduled quite far down on the list—I believe it was number five (on) the list of the seven that we’re taking and actually doing it through our programs with the Irrigation Districts.”
The Irrigation Districts received some economic stimulus funding and a long-term one per cent, 35-year loan to pay half of it in time, he added.
“This particular structure is getting quite dated and needs to be updated for we think just for safety reasons,” he said.
“We are doubling the size just about to what it is and that protection will protect the main canal going from there to Murray Lake, and leaving that room and capacity for Murray Lake to handle it. So that is the first one that I wanted to just make sure council knew that and that it is happening right in your back yard and will protect your lands down hill from there.”
The Irrigation Districts is also taking on the Chin Reservoir expansion.
“It would have been the fourth one on that list of seven,” he said.
“We’re again using that same stimulus funding program to get that one done and that should be done within the next four years.”
He added that between the two projects, it will allow for more expansion to irrigate and the hope is to bring more industry to the area as a result.
Harris wanted to re-emphasize that this was a regional initiative to try to find some solutions to overland flooding, whether it’s big rain events or snow melt events.
“The long term is we will get all these seven projects done over time,” said Harris.
“Once we (get) the Horsefly project done, or at least get it moving and you guys take care of Chin expansion and the Sauder spillway, we’ll begin lobbying again in applying for grants to get the rest of the projects done—which is Murray Lake expansion and the Paradise Creek dry down expansion and the Sherburne spillway expansion— and the smallest project is pumping stations along the main canal to let that overland flooding into the canal when there is capacity to take it.”
Harris says it might take 10 to 15 years to get the projects all done.
Cypress Coun. Ernest Mudie felt the county would see an impact with less waterlevels.
“That protects the main canal—which comes to our area,” he said.
“If the canal blows out and we don’t get any water (and) according to our tax man, we have 80,000 acres of irrigation that wouldn’t have any water, which would be a significant impact.”
Franz thought that was a good point made by Mudie.
“I think that’s the big picture here for southern Alberta,” said Franz.
“We’ve gone through,not too long ago, three consecutive dry years and really found the importance of that irrigation. So you can imagine if it would blow somewhere, what the hardship would be on the whole area?not just irrigators but everything tied to it.”
M.D. of Taber Chief Administrative Officer Arlos Crofts added that the managing partners should carry through a formal entity on these projects moving forward so there is a membership commitment for the entire program.
“It’s hard for us to commit what another council is going to do in 10 years from now,” said Coun. Darcy Geigle.
Harris added it’s on agenda to get the governance and those agreements figured out so we can have that kind of entity where we can rely on everybody to stay in this project.
Local municipalities on the committee include the County of Forty Mile (15.5 per cent to the projects), and Cypress County (14 per cent to all projects) and the remaining percentages will be made up by Lethbridge County, Cardston County, County of Warner, City of Lethbridge, Town of Taber, Town of Coaldale, SMRID and Taber Irrigation District.
The$ 47 million, three phase proposed Horsefly Regional Spillway project’s first phase would be from Taber Lake to the Oldman River, and will divert water at a rate of 55 m3/s from the SMRID Canal to the Oldman River. The proposed second phase would go from the Horsefly Reservior to Taber Lake and the third phase from the St. Mary’s Irrigation District Main Canal to the Horsefly Reservoir.
Project breakdown includes a Chin Reservoir Expansion ($39,000,000), Sherburne Spillway and Reservoir Expansion ($13,000,000), Drain Inlet Pumping Stations – 20 Sites ($2,000,000), Sauder Reservoir New Spillway ($13,000,000), Murray Reservoir Expansion ($25,000,000), and the Paradise Creek Dry Dam ($13,000,000).
-With files from Trevor Busch, Alta. Newspaper Group