May 27th, 2024

City notebook: Long-term gain from a lack of rain

By COLLIN GALLANT on April 20, 2024.

Drought conditions grow a lot of grasshoppers, but it also makes fertile ground for proposals to remake the water system in southern Alberta.

On Friday were heard details of overarching agreement by water users – cities, irrigators and a few industrial license holders – to reduce water use this summer.

Laced throughout it all is the province’s obvious want to boost reservoir storage, and the irrigation districts’ obvious want to let them.

Sure, the threat of impending water shortage brings urgency to the omnipresent threat of drought first outlined when John Palliser walked across the southern prairies 160 years ago.

It’s also been 11 years since the rallying cry coming out of the 2013 flood was to safeguard the system against flood AND drought. There are berms in place, and, now, there are reservoir proposals falling off drawing boards.

This is all logical – any water saved at this very moment will be in Hudson Bay by the time it’s needed later this spring.

Albertans as a rule do poorly when faced with calls for conserve. Just think back to any recent power emergency for proof.

But, they seem willing to pitch in to help farm operations, so we can expect a better than honest effort this summer.

And calls for Alberta to get off the boom-and-bust cycle are ingrained in the provincial psyche, and Premier Danielle Smith seems to make a priority of listening to folks who want to address rural Alberta’s priorities.

Enter the Alberta irrigation Association which in late March produced a report calling for massive water storage to move ahead, including the brain storm that Medicine Hat should consider building a weir to stabilize water levels here.

The same group was ready and waiting when the UCP took power in 2019 with a report outlining a slew of storage projects, and now five years later is finalizing plans for $800 million in reservoir expansions.

The Eyremore Reservoir would be landmark project for the Brooks region, and, obviously, of interest for the MLA for Brooks-Medicine Hat.

Acadia Valley’s been at it for two decades to create a district in that area – the Special Areas, too – and the province is putting bucks towards forwarding both.

The Meridian Dam, determined to be too costly for marginal benefit in the early 2000s, floated back to the top of some conversations shortly after Smith chose the region as her seat in the legislature.

More recently an under-the-radar proposal is to to irrigated Hilda-Schuler areas with a cross-boundary system that would feed Saskatchewan areas as well (in terms of interprovincial co-operation required, that’s about as ambitious as it comes).

Your radio dial

CKUA public radio has announced that a huge fundraising campaign is needed to keep the eclectic station that’s at 97.3 FM locally a float. Their spring fundraiser is on now.

As well, last month, Windspeaker FM network turned on it’s 10th transmitter in Medicine Hat. It sounds to this ear like an AM country station from another age – and includes radio bingo feature – at 106.3 FM.

A look ahead

City council meets on Monday to take up issue of Mayor Linnsie Clarks call for itemized info on administrators budgets among other business.

The NDP Leadership campaign comes to Southern Alberta this week with an all-candidate debate in Lethbridge and a visit from candidate Gil McGowan to the Hat early in the week.

100 years ago

“The problem of briquetting” the West’s substantial lignite coal reserves had been subject of a million dollars in spending by governments in Ottawa, Edmonton and Regina, the News stated in April 1924, but research was now heading in different directions.

The goal – to concentrate local coal to the same high grade fuel qualities as anthracite variety – was being performed at a prototype plant near Estevan Sask.

Canada’s lone female Member of Parliament bristled at reporters questions about rumours of romance in the Commons after she was spotted furnishing a blush while “walking with the member from Dundas” fellow “Ginger Group” progressive Preston Elliot.

“I haven’t time to get married,” she replied. “I never blush.”

Locally, the Chamber of Commerce endorsed a “Paint up and Clean up” day of May 7 be staged as a civic beautification program that coincided with Arbour Day. Hardware merchants were asked to support the efforts of homeowners with special pricing.

Collin Gallant covers city politics and a variety of topics for the News. Reach him at 403-528-5664 or via email at

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