By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Stettler Independent.
The County of Stettler has declared an agricultural disaster.
Council made the decision after receiving information from Alberta Agricultural showing that the 2021 soil aridity index is at its worst point in nearly six decades.
“It’s pretty bleak,” said Chief Administrative Officer Yvette Cassidy.
“Even in the best areas of the County, it is only marginally better.”
Due to the drought-like conditions coupled with the punishing heat waves seen in Alberta over the summer, crop yields are down, and only about half of it is salvageable, according to administration.
“On the Ag. Services Board, we discussed it yesterday,” said Coun. Wayne Nixon.
“We’re not going to get anything from it, though we might get attention federally. The Province (government) realizes that most of the province is under disaster.”
Coun. Cheri Nietz agreed with Nixon.
“This is a huge disaster going on in Northwest (North) America,” said Nietz.
“I agree with Mr. Nixon, we need to lobby the federal government. This is not just an Alberta issue.”
Coun. Les Stulberg motioned for the County to declare an agricultural disaster, as well as lobby the Province to declare one as well.
Nibourg suggested a friendly amendment, calling for a letter to be sent to the federal minister of agriculture as well, which was carried.
The County of Stettler will be writing a letter to the Alberta Recycling Council and MLA Nate Horner advocating for an increase in oil recycling in the province.
Nibourg brought forward the concern about the lack of oil recycling options in the region, citing that many places have stopped accepting it altogether, or have started charging to dump it.
“It came to my attention that a number of my farmer residents have a substantial amount of oil,” said Nibourg.
“Many places have started charging for the disposing of used oil. There are places in town that are still taking it, but they have quite the criteria for what they will take. I’d hate for a return to the days of our farmers putting it on their roads.”
Part of the issue, according to Cassidy, is the cost surrounding oil containment.
“It costs $30,000 to build a containment area,” said Cassidy.
Previously, the County of Stettler, and the farmers across the region, used to get paid a small amount for used oil, however due to changing government regulations and increased costs, fewer businesses are reclaiming the used oil, and those that do have been forced to start charging, something that Coun. Nibourg does not find appropriate.
“The guy who builds the oil should be responsible for it,” said Nibourg.
“Is there an oil tax? I think there is. Bringing this to the public might trigger someone to do this.”
The County administration will draft a letter on behalf of council advocating for more government support in making it easier to dispose of used oil.
The Stettler District Volunteer Fire Department has now become a society, according to Nietz.
The change in designation means that the firefighters can now fundraise for needed equipment, such as a rapid response watercraft for lake and river rescues.
“This is good news,” said Neitz.
“I already have people wanting to call in and find out where they can donate.”
The proposed rescue craft is essentially a Sea-Doo with a toboggan with multiple handhelds mounted on the back of it. Storage for the craft has already been purchased for the craft in Rochon Sands, because of its natural protection.
“In the past, we used to run private boats,” said Coun. Nibourg.
“(These watercraft) can get out there quicker.”