Potential environmental, social, health and economic implications to be examined
The Government of Alberta is beginning a voluntary three-year Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process that will examine the potential diversion of water from the Red Deer River to the Special Areas region in East Central Alberta, as well as parts of the County of Stettler and the County of Paintearth.
“We are voluntarily conducting an EIA to ensure an open and accountable process,” said Minister of Municipal Affairs, Hector Goudreau. “Gathering the relevant information will help ensure a good decision is made on whether to proceed with the proposed project.”
“We’re talking about an area that gets very little annual rainfall,” explained Drumheller-Stettler MLA and Minister of Agriculture Jack Hayden to the Stettler Independent following the announcement.
“In some cases they’ve had some tough winters with respect to getting snow and run-off also. It’s an area that’s very rich in pasture. It’s perfect for the cattle, except for the water portion of it.”
Hayden went on to clarify that this type of remedial action has been envisaged “since the dirty thirties.” In fact, the “special areas” designation was attached in 1938.
The idea is to draw water from the Red Deer River during periods of maximum flow and store it in natural locations until needed.
Hayden described these locations as ideal in that they are geographic fault-type formations narrow and deep, that could efficiently store huge volumes of water with very minimal evaporation.
“It’s been a real challenge for people to have enough water to support the agricultural industry out there,” said the Minister by phone from New Brunswick where he had been taking part in government conferences.
On the topic of years the concept has been germinating, Hayden stated, “A lot of preliminary work has been done on it, and there was a point in time in which a project was approved in principle at the cabinet table, but of course there’s a lot of steps to take before anything can become a reality.”
The first step, Hayden referred to was the environmental impact study announced with the government press release.
The upcoming three-year effort is but Phase One of the study, to be followed by Phase Two which is expected to have a two-year duration.