Minister meets with water partnership by Miriam Ostermann, June 17, 2014, Strathmore Standard
The village of Rockyford is finding itself caught at a crossroads, with Alberta Environment tightening the screws on the municipality to upgrade their water treatment plant starting in 2015, while funding from Alberta Infrastructure for the project is currently nonexistent. The plant is exceeding its life expectancy and isn’t meeting requirements. Having received letters from the Alberta government, the Wheatland Regional Water Partnership (WRWP) took action and asked for a meeting with the Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation Wayne Drysdale, on June 11, with hopes of ironing out some of the wrinkles in the process.
“Our position is that the two departments in government, Alberta Environment and Alberta Infrastructure, which we talked about with Minister Drysdale, they need to have a conversation between themselves, because it’s fine and dandy to put these demands in place but those demands have to come with their portion of the funding as well,” said Rockyford Mayor and head of the Wheatland Regional Water Partnership Darcy Burke.
“We’re trying to deal with Alberta Environment and we have a plan in place for the province, but we can’t solve them without the government becoming involved financially. So we really stressed to the minister that you either need to relax the Alberta Environment guidelines for these municipalities or else you need to find some way that we can start to fund portion for this project and get it started.”
The Wheatland Regional Water Partnership feels that a regional water project – which will supply Standard, Rockyford, Hussar, Gleichen and Rosebud – will be more economical for ratepayers. Municipal governments would be part of a regional system rather than building individual standalone systems in their own communities.
“We have picked out a spot, we’ve decided on a plan and it’s being presented to the government along with a business plan and so now we are in the process of trying to get the government to take some sort of action for it,” he said. Drysdale said he met with his counterpart from the Sustainable Resource Development (SRD), Robin Campbell, to discuss the rising standards and the lack of funding available to these projects. The issue is considered a priority and with the budget process starting in August, Drysdale said the timing of his tour to gather information in Alberta couldn’t be better. “I’ll be lobbying and working hard with Robin Campbell to talk to treasury board about getting increases, plus we’re wanting to direct a bunch of Building Canada Fund money to some of these projects,” Drysdale said. “We’re hoping to take some of that federal money and our money to put into this water and waste-water project. In the past a lot of that has gone to recreation, culture, arts… but we need to look after our basics first.”
Overall, the mood after the 40-minute meeting, which involved representatives from the village of Rockyford, Wheatland County and the village of Standard, was positive and the members said they were able to shed some light on the water and waste-water issues. “I think it went as good as we could’ve expected, they didn’t write us a cheque, and the province is short on funding in so many areas, so I don’t know if we’re going to get any money, but they are looking at it and when they’re going to review it we may get moved forward,” said Armstrong.
“Drinking water quality is continuously changing there are parameters now as to what you can allow and very time they change things it costs the municipalities thousands of dollars for upgrades to meet the parameters that they keep putting in place. We’ve been trying to get regional water in place for a few years, so I hope they take a hard look at what we’re requesting.”
The Alberta tour has provided Drysdale with the opportunity to see the issues that have been knocking on his door from across the province, first hand. According to Drysdale the information gathered with aid in setting priorities to all the projects and problems province-wide that require attention, but he seemed hopeful that the Wheatland area will see some sort of commitment.
“We’re ready to go with it basically, it’s just money, and I didn’t promise them anything today, I didn’t bring a cheque, it’s not only my department there are three or four departments, but all of cabinet and caucus realize it’s an issue and that it’s important,” he said. “Everyone has lots of requests and there’s never enough money but we’ll work together and partner and hopefully make something partner here.”