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Irrigation project proposed to Cypress County Council

Posted on February 29, 2024 by Ryan Dahlman

By Brylan Span
Commentator/Courier

Cypress County Council was presented with a proposal that could be a future answer to irrigation problems that have been plaguing the region.

The proposal, brought forward by Aaron Bauer and Enterprise Councillor Milton Klaudt, outlines an irrigation feasibility study budget for WaterSMART Solutions. This study, which is aimed at assessing the viability of irrigating over 100,000 acres of land in the region, would be the first step to get the Meridian Irrigation Project off the ground.

The study’s scope encompasses several crucial aspects, including water availability, technical feasibility, regulatory framework, and socio-economic impact analysis. WaterSMART Solutions, a strategic and engineering consulting firm specializing in water management, has estimated the cost of this feasibility study to be approximately $500,000, with funding sought from various governmental sources and local partners.

One of the key logistical challenges highlighted in the proposal is the need for coordination between Alberta and Saskatchewan regulators due to the project’s unique configuration. The intake location for the irrigation project would be situated in Cypress County, drawing water from the South Saskatchewan River, but the water would be utilized in both Alberta and Saskatchewan. This necessitates the establishment of an interprovincial agreement to address regulatory and apportionment considerations.

The proposed partnership involves Cypress County committing to fund 50per cent of the costs for Tasks 1-3 of the study. These tasks are project scoping, water availability, and technical feasibility, amounting to $70,000, on a contingent basis. This commitment is contingent upon matching funds from the RM of Enterprise #142, with additional support expected from the Alberta and Saskatchewan governments and the Canadian Infrastructure Bank (CIB). The allocated funds would only be drawn if the requisite funding from all parties is secured to complete the study. In the event of any impasse during the project’s execution, the remaining funds would be returned.

Bauer emphasized its potential in the region, citing the success of similar irrigation initiatives elsewhere. The Acadia Valley project, for instance, served as a model for the proposed Meridian Irrigation Project, paving the way for substantial government funding and detailed design work. “I think the huge advantage is that we have a process that we can follow,” said Bauer. “Acadia Valley and Special Areas, we use the same expertise, we follow the same process, and we can catch up with them and avoid some of the pitfalls that they’ve made that have either taken extra time or extra money. We can be a fast follower of a process that’s already in place.”

The involvement of the Canadian Infrastructure Bank (CIB) and the Alberta Government underscores the significance of this project at a national and provincial level.

The economic and social benefits of irrigation extend beyond agricultural productivity, encompassing job creation, infrastructure development, and environmental conservation. By bringing much-needed water to arid regions, irrigation projects have the potential to enhance landscapes, support local communities, and bolster the agri-food sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product. “The benefits for the area are just enormous.” said Ward 6 councillor Dustin Vossler.  “Any potential for irrigation within the municipality is of a great asset.”

With a meeting scheduled with RM of Enterprise #142 on March 21st to discuss a similar commitment, all involved are optimistic about the project’s momentum and the potential for collaborative success.

Council will be reviewing the proposal and making their decision at the next council meeting.

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