December 5th, 2020

More irrigation projects planned for the region: Hunter

By Jensen, Randy on November 7, 2020.

Minister Grant Hunter speaks to reporters, alongside Coaldale Mayor Kim Craig, during an availability on modernizing southern Alberta's irrigation infrastructure and recent federal and provincial grants for the Malloy Basin Phase 2B flood mitigation strategy. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald -coaldale

Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction Grant Hunter visited Coaldale on Friday to speak about the recent $3 million in federal and provincial grants the community received for the Malloy Basin Phase 2B flood mitigation strategy, and to speak about plans his government has to help modernize and southern Alberta’s irrigation infrastructure to foster a new generation of agriculture and food processing.

“Alberta’s government takes this industry very seriously, and this area very seriously, and is committed to making between Lethbridge and Medicine Hat the agri-food corridor of Canada,” he stated. “As we recover economically from the triple black swan event of COVID-19, the collapse in oil prices and the greatest recession since the 1930s, our government is taking serious action by enacting the right steps to ensure Alberta thrives well into the future.”

Hunter later expanded on this theme in his comments to the media.

“In terms of other announcements, you will have to stay tuned,” he responded when asked if his government has other impending projects coming down the pipe for irrigation in the region. “The big umbrella is we have said we are going to be spending another $815 million on irrigation projects. Stay tuned. Those will be announced.”

Hunter said the projects are considered a key priority for his government.

“We’re excited about it,” he admitted. “It shows there is a commitment by the government in collaboration with the federal government as well, and with each of the irrigation districts to be able to take a look at how we will position ourselves for the future, and how we can position ourselves for a strong, robust future.”

But in this case, stormwater flood mitigation was the key theme of the Malloy Drainage 2B project funding, stated Hunter – to safeguard the community and surrounding area.

“This is about making sure the infrastructure we have, the irrigation canals we have, are properly taken care of, and into the future we are making sure they are resilient,” he said.

Coaldale Mayor Kim Craig said all the work on the Malloy Drainage project done to date by the Town, Lethbridge County and the St. Mary River Irrigation District has greatly reduced the stormwater flood risk to his community and nearby landowners.

“The capacity we have brought on, and will bring in, we’re much better prepared for a significant stormwater event,” he explained. “These infrastructure improvements really add to our ability to help mitigate that, and alleviate a lot of anxiety for the downstream landowners. Hopefully, they can rest a lot easier at night that, in a storm event, we will be able to retain water for a suitable period to allow the stormwater to be held in the system and then be released as appropriate.”

Besides Hunter and Craig, Lethbridge County Reeve Lorne Hickey was also present on Friday; as well as SMRID general manager Dave Westwood. MP Rachael Harder sent a letter which was read out to the assembled dignitaries on behalf of the federal government.

In his comments to the media, Westwood said while the Malloy Drain Phase 2B put a greater emphasis on flood mitigation in Coaldale itself, it would also benefit all neighbouring landowners and jurisdictions.

“The completion of this portion of the Malloy drain implementation plan will allow for improved drainage for the Town of Coaldale, provide enhanced flood mitigation in all of our jurisdictions, and improve the water quality that enters the SMRID system, which will benefit all of our water users downstream of Coaldale,” he said.

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