Premier Jason Kenney made a point last week while in Taber to reiterate that expanding irrigation capacity is a key part of the Alberta government’s multi-billion-dollar infrastructure package to spur economic recovery and diversification.
That came the same day Saskatchewan announced it hopes to double its irrigated crop acres with $10 billion in spending over time.
Alberta’s $150-million twinning of Highway 3 between Taber and Burdett would help support the logistics of a growing agri-food-processing hub in that region, Kenney said, adding that expanding water delivery to support specialty crops is being seriously considered.
“It’s been under reported,” Kenney told a press conference. “We’re signalling that we see this as an area of great potential.”
Last month, Alta Newspaper Group reported that an overview of $10 billion in new spending is geared to create jobs and focus of economic and trade corridors, including the potential of cash to expand water delivery to farmers. Highways, gas and oil pipelines – among other spending – is being added to bolster future diversification efforts.
On July 2, Kenney said his government is in “preliminary discussions” with the federal government’s Canada Infrastructure Bank on projects that still might be years away, but financing is sought in a public-private partnership (known as P3) format.
As first reported by the Alta Newspaper Group, the Alberta Irrigation Districts Association in the summer of 2019 presented Alberta’s Agriculture Ministry with a report detailing 13 potential projects to increase water storage while gaining a greater control of potential floods.
The preferred initial project would be a long-talked-about reservoir west of Brooks to complement the Bassano Dam and benefit the Eastern Irrigation District.
Initial cost estimates are $1 billion for the “Eyemore Reservoir,” and other substantial projects are suggested for the St. Mary system and areas north and east of Calgary.
Meanwhile on July 2, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced that his government will advance initial work on a $4-billion irrigation expansion from Lake Diefenbaker that will add 500,000 acres of irrigated crop land when complete.
Immediately, engineering work will proceed on a $500-million improvement to the Westside Irrigation District – west of the Lake, near Lucky Lake.
Two other phases would bring water from the South Saskatchewan-fed lake to areas as far south as Qu’Appelle and the Regina-Moose Jaw corridor.
The Saskatchewan government estimates the complete projects would add up to $80 billion to the province’s gross domestic product over 50 years.