July 12th, 2024

Piikani working with government to resolve LNID water access

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on April 26, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

The Piikani Nation is denying that it is blocking a water infrastructure project on the Oldman River.
A report last week on website realagriculture.com said water users in the Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District are fearing they won’t be able to access much-needed water from the Oldman River for crops and feedlot operations due to a blockade that started on April 21.
“Piikani Chief and Council have been working constructively for years to resolve outstanding issues and ensure that Piikani’s interests are preserved as part of what is a massive water infrastructure project on our land that directly affects us. Those discussions are ongoing. Our intention has always been for respectful dialogue. This is why since 2018 we have requested meetings with the
Alberta Government to address this important issue,” said Chief Stan Grier of the Piikani Nation in a statement.
“In fact, there have been direct communications with Minister Wilson on this issue. At present, the province has proposed an agreement. Piikani has replied with a counter. We are waiting for a response to that,” the statement added. “Unfortunately, in advance of conclusion of talks, there have been many instances of Ministry of Environment contractors conducting work on our Reserve Lands. Needless to say, that is unacceptable.
“The Piikani people believe water is sacred, and water is a Treaty Right. However, we also understand the critical importance of water for the region and for our neighbours, especially those in agriculture who, like our own ranchers, have been so hard hit by drought.
“Our goal is to resolve the outstanding issues, while ensuring that the project benefits the entire region.”
In response to a Friday email asking for information, Paul Hamnett, press secretary for Environment and Parks, said the province is working to resolve the issue “as quickly as possible.
“Ministers have been meeting with Piikani Nation elected officials to hear and understand Piikani Nation concerns since this government was elected in 2019. The dialogue between officials has been respectful and productive.
“We are also aware of the concerns of the farmers and cattle producers in the Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District who urgently need this water.
“Alberta’s government has had a Settlement Agreement with Piikani First Nation and the Government of Canada since 2002 to permit Alberta access to the headworks to supply water to the Irrigation District. Any access to Reserve land that occurred by government officials were for repairs and safety reasons as legally defined by conditions of the Agreement and accompanying access permits.
“The Government of Alberta recognizes and respects the Piikani First Nation’s treaty rights as affirmed in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982,” said the government statement.
John Vandenberg, chairman of the board of the LNID, told The Herald in an email “we do not have any details other than that government officials are dealing with the issue.”

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