Prairie Post (East Edition)

Special Areas irrigation meetings well attended

- By Anna Smith, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

On October 6th, town halls were held in Pollockvil­le and Acadia Valley to answer questions from the public regarding a possible irrigation expansion in Eastern-Central Alberta.

The project is a partnershi­p between The Special Areas Board and the MD of Acadia partnered with the Canada Infrastruc­ture Bank and Alberta Agricultur­e & Forestry, and is currently undergoing a feasibilit­y investigat­ion that is expected to be completed in late 2021.

Over 75 people attended the town halls, where representa­tives from the Special Areas Board, MD of Acadia, WaterSMART Solutions, Alberta Irrigation Districts Associatio­n, and McMillan LLP answered questions about the project, including water availabili­ty and governance options for the proposed irrigation.

Attendees included local producers and residents, as well as elected officials and irrigation groups. Over 80% of those who attended signed up for future project communicat­ions.

Formal feedback was not requested at the town halls, however the Special Areas Board did make notes of themes present in the comments made by those attending. Attendees expressed that “local irrigation would be a game changer” for the area, said a press release from the Special Areas Board, but that representa­tion and engagement from the local producers who would be using this irrigation is critical when planning or governing the project.

Other feedback communicat­ed a need for better highlighti­ng of the benefits of irrigation and the impact it would have on value-added agricultur­e, as well as a desire for investment from all levels of government as these benefits “are realized on local, provincial, and federal levels - not just by irrigators,” said the press release.

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