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City cancels environmental irrigation project share

City cancels environmental irrigation project share

A district irrigation project— once hailed for saving Moose Jaw taxpayers millions of dollars — faces an abrupt end next year.

Dec. 31 will mark the end of cost sharing for the 40-year old project that uses sewage from the area.

“The city gave notice and cancelled our agreement at the end of the year,” said Rick Swenson. 

Swenson, one six-farmer with 3,300 acres total under irrigation, stated that negotiations with the city are dead.

“This is one of the best environmental projects on the Prairies. We figure we have saved the city $5 million in alum costs (or treatment) alone” plus the costs of a chemical treatment plant for almost 40 years.                          

In 1978, the city faced the construction of a chemical plant. Instead, it chose to use sewage water to irrigate its crops.

The project has grown over the years.

During wet years in the early 2000s, the irrigators didn’t need the water. Sask issued permits for the city. Environment to dump sewage into the Moose Jaw River multiple times.

Environment received an order to build a chemical treatment facility.

The new plant doesn’t seem to be why the city cancelled the agreement of cost sharing, according to Swenson.      

Matt Noble, former City Manager, and Josh Mickleborough, ex-city engineer, decided to avoid any liability or risk associated with the plant. They urged the cancellation of the agreement

Swenson says that city officials wanted to remove any obligations, such as those if the pipeline below the river bursts.           

“We have no other source of water. There are no water licenses. We can’t go it alone.”

He said that the project is not comparable to a small farm.

Over the years, the Baildon Irrigation project has developed “a nice feed industry” growing corn for silage in recent years.

The city saved money by not using chemical treatment. Farmers saw their land become productive and local feedlots had an alternative source of feed.

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“We can expand that industry.” A local feedlot carrying 10,000 head wants to expand to 18,000 head.

The agreement covers power costs and irrigation equipment cost sharing. It amounts to approximately $500,000. The cost of power is $26 per acre.

Federal and provincial money were used to build the original infrastructure, including the pipeline, pump house, and drainage.

“They have backed off too.”

Swenson stated that Crystal Froese, Moose Jaw Councillor, has been looking at the project. “She thinks it’s nuts to cancel it.”         

Ron Walter can reached at ronjoy@sasktel.net

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