Special Areas Water Supply Project details relayed

Residents in Special Areas have a much better understanding of the Special Areas Water Supply Project (SAWSP) after a series of community information sessions were held recently in Oyen, Consort, and Hanna.

Special Areas Board chair, Jordon Christianson gave an overview of the vast project that would take water from Red Deer River and distribute it throughout the region using 103 kms of pipeline. 

If completed the project would provide 8,000 acres of irrigation, and would also support municipal stock watering, drought mitigation, and enhancements for riparian areas. 

“These community information sessions gave us a chance to share an update on the project with our local communities and ratepayers, and to talk about what some of these key findings could mean for the viability of the project. We have reached a critical milestone for SAWSP, and what we need now is to hear from our ratepayers what they think the next steps for the project should be,” said Christianson, in a written statement. 

Phase One of the project, which included the EIA, is complete, at a cost of $3.63 million. Special Areas contributed 53 percent of the cost and the province 47 percent. 

Jason Duxbury from Klohn Crippen Berger explained the environmental assessment and key outcomes of the project.

The EIA included studies on surface water quality and quantity, groundwater, and fish and fish habitat. Soil and terrain and vegetation/wetland studies were also completed. Wildlife studies included that of sensitive species, including burrowing owls, Baird’s sparrow, loggerhead shrike, and other species. 

The socio-economic impact analysis was provided by Mark Anielski from Anielski Economics of Well-Being and Darrell Toma from Tom and Douma Management Consultants. Findings including the impacts during the construction phase which would take place over five years. During its operations, the water system would account for $5.6 million for Alberta’s GDP, according to the report. 

Phase Two of the project will include a technical review by AEP (Alberta Environment and Parks) and may include an NRCB (Natural Resources Conservation Board) review of the project. The projected cost for the technical review is approximately $1 million and $2 million to $10 million for the NRCB submission.

With the community information sessions wrapped up, Special Areas is focusing on getting feedback on the next steps for the project. A survey has been set up which asks ratepayers to rank the three options being considered for the project. This survey, available online or at local District Offices until March 31, will be used to provide feedback to the Special Areas Board and Advisory Council for their June meeting.

Copies of the presentations from the information sessions, along with key project information and background, are available at www.specialareas.ab.ca and at local District Offices.

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