By COLLIN GALLANT on October 3, 2023.
A new regional water strategy encompassing Highway 3 – stretching from Lethbridge to Medicine Hat – is being discussed as 10 municipalities along the way join a working group and seek out grant funding.
Medicine Hat city council will take up the issue at tonight’s regular meeting after councils in Cypress County and Bow Island approved their participation in September.
A letter acquired by the News from MLA Grant Hunter, the parliamentary secretary for agri-food processing in the United Conservative government, lays out the need for more formal collaboration.
It will study the cumulative water rights held by the local governments, their local needs and the potential requirement for new industrial or commercial projects. Data would be used in planning, potential collaborations and as promotional material for investment attraction.
“The government … wishes to develop the corridor along Highway 3 … as a global hub for agri-food processing facilities,” the letter reads, outlining that new large-scale processing plants will require water and sewer upgrades.
“The development of a viable concept for the provision of water and wastewater servicing to this corridor is an integral part in the overall success of the initiative.”
Hat city council will be asked to sign on as a joint applicant for Alberta Community Partnership Funding of up to $200,000 each to study water and wastewater planning. The applications are due this week and are being handled by the towns of Taber and Coaldale.
“Canada’s Premier Food Corridor” – a joint promotional initiative in the Lethbridge County and MD of Taber area – is heavily promoted as part of the government’s “economic corridor,” agri-food processing and rural economic development efforts.
With irrigated land, specialty crop production, transportation infrastructure and established plants operated by key companies, it bills itself as one of the key growth areas in Western Canada.
Last March, McCain’s announced it would double the size of its Coaldale potato plant, spending $600 million on the project that would employ 260 workers when completed.
To service further expansions, Hunter suggests more formal association of communities along the route toward potential collaboration on water and wastewater issues.
Centres included in the partnership would be Medicine Hat, the city and county of Lethbridge, Coaldale, MD and town of Taber, Bow Island, the counties of Cypress and Forty Mile and the village of Barnwell.
The area would be divided into three working-sections: Lethbridge and Coaldale, Taber to Bow Island and areas east from Whitla to Cypress County and the Hat.
Each zone would also outline the amount of industrial land available for development.
Last year, the three local municipalities agreed to study the area’s water supply shortly after Hat Mayor Linnsie Clark told a State of the City address that the city should aim to add tens of thousands of new residents to improve the efficiency of municipal infrastructure and programming.