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Special Areas requests for water

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Jun 25, 2005 | 17:33 31 ...cowman...there are three different distinctions in property...may some that knows for sure can tell us more ...
...deeded land
...cultivation lease
...pasture lease
I will say that people that have leases in the special areas have had incentives by government to deed the land...some have took advantages to deed while others have not...could be economical or management decisions since it was up to the farmer whether not to deed or not...

...between the deeded and lease the taxes are around 80 cents an acre...

I own land in Clearwater county with the land being basically half cultivatable and the rest pasture...the taxes work out to be around a dollar an acre...no building...

...have one quarter with buildings in Red Deer county ...now thats a different story when it comes to tax...

...as for being a ex native of the special areas the reason our family moved was for farm management purposes...it was a decision in that it is alot easier to move the cattle to the feed source than it was to haul the feed to the cattle...
...I'm not going to deny there are some ranches out there in the special areas with huge gas and oil revenues...but there is some here in the west country also...

... finally I will add...on a 20 mile stretch of road where I lived there was 6 families ...now there is 2 ...one family that has always lived there and one that moved into the area in the 80's...these people recently bought land in Saskatchewan for ranching purposes... Reply With Quote
Jun 25, 2005 | 18:45 32 blackjack I don't know whether you are referring to how the land is assessed for tax purposes or not, but if so, farmland is assessed on productivity vs market value. Farmsteads are assessed on the house and three acre site, then a portion of the farmland assessment can be deducted from the house and three acre site assessment up to a maximum.

It is interesting to learn how assessments are done, particularly in the area of farmland. Aerial photographs are used to identify non farmable land, creeks, coulees, etc.

Soil classification is another tool used by assessors, hence the higher taxes in Red Deer County where the soil is productive for agriculture.


Don't know if this helps or not. Reply With Quote
Jun 25, 2005 | 18:58 33 Have to make a slight amendment to my post about Special Areas governance.
The Chairperson and Special areas Board are appointed by Cabinet. The chair is appointed the other members of the board are appointed after being nominated by the Special Areas Advisory Council, they are elected every three years in the regular municipal elections.
They have an Agricultural Service Board as well, and are involved in all aspects of administering provincial legislation such as the Weed Act, Pest Act etc.

Former Minister of Agriculture Shirley McLellan is from New Brigdon which is in the Special Areas. Reply With Quote
Jun 25, 2005 | 19:09 34 emrald1... thanks for the reply...alot of people on the west side of province seem to think the east don't pay much land tax...as you pointed out the land is valued by its production...as in the case with the special areas production can be very limited to soil type and climate... so taxes in years when the special areas receive rain might seem low... but on the other hand there is more dry years than wet... Reply With Quote
Jun 25, 2005 | 19:18 35 ...could be wrong but I think Shirley worked at the Cereal Auction Mart...I don't remember if she worked for the Reimer's or Cyril Curran...some central Albertans might know Curran as he was in Red Deer for a while... Reply With Quote
Jun 25, 2005 | 21:50 36 Blackjack, with the stretch of road that you speak of - where the families went from 6 to 2, that is part of the negative correlation between ag development and rural development. As people acquire more land, the development goes down because there is less necessity for banks, doctors, stores etc.

So, if there are some 2 million hectares and only 20,000 of those are anticipated to be irrigated, to allow for expansion of confined feeding operations, the feed would by and large have to be trucked in. There is your dilemma - easier to move the cattle to feed than the other way around. Ask the folks around Picture Butte how they like the B-trains coming and going 24 hours a day, not to mention what it does to the infrastructure like roads, bridges etc.

I really question whether this proposed diversion will work out to be a case of "if you build it they will come." I understand that the recreational activities around the Sheerness reservoir are substantial, but the area cannot do it with recreational dwellers alone, that are at home during the majority of the year. Reply With Quote
Jun 25, 2005 | 22:56 37 Linda, in my discussions with elected officials from the areas that are initiating discussions on the water diversion, it didn't seem as though they were proposing this to gain feedlots and other confined feeding operations. It was to have ample water to sustain the agricultural industry that is already there and to attract some sort of commerce to the area so they can keep some of their younger folks there and keep schools open etc.

As far as traffic around Picture Butte...come to the oil patch and I'll show you traffic ! Approximately 8500 vehicles a day travel on the stretch of highway that I have to drive on whenever I go to town for my mail, a large number of those vehicles are logging trucks, Btrains hauling sulfur, tank trucks pulling pups, service rigs and all their associated vehicles which can include up to a dozen large trucks, and the top speed is around 80 km. In addition to this there are school busses and the agricultural industry vehicles hauling cattle, hay etc. The highways here take a beating all year every year, and the rural roads are usually rougher than heck. Reply With Quote
Jun 25, 2005 | 23:11 38 Emrald, your point about wanting to help what is already there is well taken. I was looking at cowman's idea of starting up feedlots etc. out there as there is so much open space.

If the land is taxed at low rates because of it's poor agricultural capability and/or capacity, then shouldn't it be looked at from that standpoint? By that I mean if it isn't all that productive, then why keep trying to force it to do what it so obviously is incapable of doing? Reply With Quote
Jun 25, 2005 | 23:40 39 Linda its capability hasn't even been determined due to the lack of water. As I have said before, there are many areas in the south eastern part of the province that would be a wasteland if it were not for irrigation. If you haven't had the opportunity to tour those area it is something to consider . I have been on soils tours arranged by the University of Alberta, on Agricultural Service Board Tours etc., and was amazed at the difference between irrigated and non-irrigated land. With the pressure for development on the better quality agricultural lands in the province it seems as though moving the water to the poorer quality lands will at least provide some opportunities for growth in agriculture as time goes on. Reply With Quote
Jun 26, 2005 | 03:20 40 And you guys haven`t even touched on who really owns the land and true incentives to develop it!!Reread my first post ,check your geography and numbers...this will be an interesting development!That`s why some of us are looking for a visionary rather than just a representative!! Reply With Quote
Jun 26, 2005 | 07:25 41 cropduster, isn't there a lot of deeded land in Special Areas and also in the County of Paintearth ? I am aware that there are a lot of grazing leases and that is where a lot of the outcry came from during the time that Tom Thurber was reviewing the Grazing Lease legislation.
The Advisory Council is elected by the citizens of Special Areas but you are correct in indicating that they only act as an advisory to the Special Areas Board that are appointed by Cabinet.
It is a very interesting form of municipal government compared to the traditional MD's and Counties. Reply With Quote
Jun 26, 2005 | 17:56 42 Em,of the 6 million acres it is roughly 1/3 each of crown ,tax recovery and deeded.The 60 million nest egg referred to above is/was generated by residents re-buying the deeds to some of the TR land.But now what to do with the money.One interpretation of the act says the TR land interest is to be `vested in the area`but amazingly the funds are held `safely` in Edmonton.The bureaucrats are careful not to let the citizenry get too much power and that`s where this whole project may run aground. Reply With Quote
Jun 26, 2005 | 21:38 43 I am sure that the $50 million would go along way toward any water initiative for the area, which would mean less out of the rest of the taxpayers pockets, IF the project ever does gain approval. Reply With Quote
Jun 28, 2005 | 14:05 44 Apparently a environmental lobby group is pressuring the government to do an Environmental Impact Study on the proposed water diversion. It will be interesting to see if it becomes a political issue or an environmental one before the decision is finally made. Reply With Quote
Jun 28, 2005 | 14:52 45 Yes, it was announced yesterday that the Alberta Wildnerness Association is asking for an EIA. The proponents of the project are saying that it will turn the desert into an oasis with unlimited development potential.

With a price tag of just under $200 million, we had better make pretty sure that this is going to have some chance for success and at the same time cause minimal harm to the environment and biodiversity . Reply With Quote
Jun 28, 2005 | 16:21 46 I would have expected that an EIA would have been mandatory for a project of that magnitude. If an EIA is ordered it will be interesting to see which agency is involved. Water diversion projects are usually sent to the NRCB, and power dams etc. which involve water diversion are usually joint EUB/NRCB. Reply With Quote
Jun 29, 2005 | 05:12 47 Well if $200 million turns it into pardise then I would suggest it is a darned cheap investment? Right now they are doing a feasability study on a high speed train between Calgary and Edmonton and they have pegged the cost at $1.4 to $1.7 BILLION dollars, so 200 million is small potatoes?
By the way the train would only stop once...at Red Deer(actually at a terminal beside the RD airport)! Want a hot real estate tip? Buy up the land around the Red Deer airport(or actually anywhere close to Red Deer)! The county recently bought 250 acres just south of the airport for $6,000/acre! Reply With Quote
Jun 29, 2005 | 07:36 48 cowman, I agree that 200 million is a small price for ensuring viability of a huge portion of the province. Many people chose to settle there years and years ago, and through no fault of their own communities are dying out due to a lack of water. The rains of this year should allay some of the fears about the lack of water to share, but I certainly support an EIA being done to ensure that any negative impact will be mitigated as much as possible should the project go ahead.
All too often the dollars are spent to benefit the residents of the large urban centres and rural folks needs get pushed aside. Reply With Quote
Jun 29, 2005 | 21:28 49 It gets down to the alocated flow of the Red deer river. Use it or lose it. We are gona use it. we are gona pay our own pumping costs with renewable resourses.The 200 mill initial investment by Alberta taxpayers is less money than the liberals pocketed in adscam. Reply With Quote
Jun 29, 2005 | 22:17 50 Can't really compare apples and oranges. I wish we could be certain that it will ensure the viability of that portion of the province, but wishing doesn't make it so.

When I asked the question about who would move out there if there were water, no one said they would. What if everyone else expects the same - that someone will want to move out there. In many instances, it isn't the lack of water that is making people reluctant to move out there. Far too many people are used to the city type amenities and choices for things to do to keep the family occupied - in other words "urbanized." How many people on the acreages around populated areas make the trip into the bigger centre versus shopping locally?

County of Red Deer did some sort of study on how many times the acreage owners drove into the city for things - it was an average of 11 times PER DAY.

Remember, they are only going to provide irrigation for 20,000 of the 2 million acres out there - that will still leave an awful lot of the area without water and facing the same dilemmas that they are now.

Many communities are dying out and they have more than enough water. The challenges go deeper than that. Reply With Quote
Jun 30, 2005 | 04:48 51 I look at it a different way Linda. People all along the pipeline would benifit, Stettler being a prime example?
The dam to fuel this pipeline would probably be built on the eastern boundry of Red Deer county where it joins Stettler county? I would think it would contain a generator that could provide the pumping equipment with power?
Consider the economical benifit of having a major resort on the eastern boundary, where the people are crying for some sort of developement?
I realize you are close to the Dixon dam and have not seen that as a positive thing, and to a certain extent I agree with you that it was not managed properly. Too many restrictions on growth have not produced all the economic activity that could have been possible there? It is sort of funny how people view things? The western portion of the county want to keep developement out...the eastern portion would welcome it with open arms!
Also consider this: Eastern Alberta will in all probability see an unreal amount of coalbed wells in the next few years. There will be a need for a fairly large labor force, both temporary and permanent! The nature of coalbed methane is it requires lots of compressor stations...and therefore lots of workers! The coalbed gas is not a short term thing, these wells tend to produce forever!
And interesting little sidenote...I recently talked to a field supervisor for a major coalbed company. He told me that while their main focus for the next few years will be the "horse shoe canyon" coal bed, the future will be focussing on the "Manville" coalbed! The horse Shoe is dry gas...the Manville is very wet salt water! He claims the Mannville has twice the capacity to produce gas than the Horse shoe canyon!
So I asked " Why not produce the Mannville instead of the horse shoe?" His answer "The people of Alberta aren't ready to buy into that idea yet. Once we have the system in place they will be more receptive!"
He went on to assure me the technolgy was there to do this safely and in an environmentally friendly way, by deep injecting the saline water! And it definitely wouldn't be anything like the Powder River basin in Wyoming! Still I found the idea a wee bit scary? Do they really know what they are doing? Reply With Quote
Jun 30, 2005 | 12:24 52 Cowman: Just a point of interest, an successful experimental well was drilled in our area, completed today. Its target was Mannville methane coal bed gas. Apparently horizontally drilled with the end 2 kms north of the surface site.

This water project would not benefit Stettler very much as it is about 25 miles south. I do not recall a dam at the river, just pumping stations with the first resevoir east of the river at Shooting Lake and other resevoirs further east yet in existing lakes. Reply With Quote
Jun 30, 2005 | 13:48 53 Did you find any lint while you were navel gazing Cakadu??Watched a Discovery piece on the Hoover dam and there sure wasn`t anyone there when that dam was built but look at the development now.(Vegas, etc.)Are you saying it should be removed??Someone took an intiative and it has borne fruit.This project is not a dam but a controlled transfer.What`s the BIG deal??Nothing ventured nothing gained. Reply With Quote
Jun 30, 2005 | 20:05 54 Linda, with all due respect I have to say that it concerns me when anyone says ' who would move out there?'

"Out there" is where a lot of people live, they are fellow Albertans. It is not some godforsaken desert in the middle of Africa for godsakes.
In the MD of Big Lakes which is near High Prairie, water co-ops have formed to pipe water through the a lot of the region. Farms now use piped in water vs having to use dugout water. Reply With Quote
Jul 1, 2005 | 00:15 55 Emrald, you've maybe given a little too much emphasis to that portion of my statement. To many people, it would be a location that wouldn't suit their ideas of a place to live, it's not necessarily how I feel.

I have not ever said the project should not go ahead - indeed I have voiced my ambivalence about the project. Believe me, I understand what you are saying about giving the area a chance to explore it's potential, see what will come of it and so forth.

I still am no better informed as to why we want to force land to do what it cannot do on its own? What about planting native species so that they can tolerate and thrive in the prevalent conditions? Maybe the EIA will give some idea as to the challenges that will be faced if the water is there etc., etc. We have no way of knowing what all of the consequences are - good or bad - of taking the action.

This whole project is being envisioned as saving an area of the province - are similar measures going to be taken for still other areas of the province that are facing or already going through a slow death?

Land and water are two things that we cannot make any more of. Despite all of the rains and the flooding, there is a finite amount of water that we can use.

The water will be taken out of the river in August - when it is at it's lowest in terms of flow and availability. Is that the best time to divert it? Would there be a better time? If it is going to be diverted in August, how will that help irrigation? Even if it is put in the reservoirs, how much evaporation will that allow for? The long term sustainability of water is going to be important for us all someday.

We need to be taking some much needed lessons from other parts of the globe where similar things have been tried and see what things have been learned - good and bad. Reply With Quote
Jul 1, 2005 | 03:27 56 Valid questions Linda, and hopefully if the project does get far enough ahead to require an EIA they will be answered.

I have seen how water works wonders in the south where irrigation has turned vast wastelands into productive lands able to sustain many communities. The good farm land in Alberta is being covered in concrete or chopped into country residential parcels for those who want to be ' country gentlmen' so putting water on land that is now unproductive, and turning it into producing land sounds like an idea that has some merit, however,it should not come at the expense of other areas of the province. Reply With Quote
Jul 1, 2005 | 07:05 57 I would not expect water to be diverted out of the river in August. The plan was to fill resevoirs (lakes) with river water in the spring when flows are high, like now. The lakes would be drawn down in summer.

I understood the water levels in the lakes would only need to be raised and lowered about a foot to meet the needs of this project. Reply With Quote
Jul 1, 2005 | 10:03 58 I'm still waiting for someone to answer Cakadu's original question about what would be grown on this land. Look at eastern Saskatchewan and much of Manitoba where lack of water is rarely a concern - the whole area is for sale. If they are going bust growing crops to sell into the same commodity markets how can you hope to do better in eastern Alberta with the added cost of irrigation on higher priced land? Reply With Quote
Jul 1, 2005 | 10:58 59 Well, farmers_son, the proposed diversion period is from April 15th to October 31st in each year and it was an AB Environment person that told me that water would be diverted in August.

According to the full report, some native habitat would be destroyed in order to make this canal system even though it is going to primarily use natural channels to a large extent. How much native habitat will be destroyed? "Some" is a pretty nebulous term, don't you think?

The proposed 70 cent economic benefit for every dollar spent is over a 50 year time span, so it could be a good number of years before any economic benefit is realized. Power costs to run the system are estimated to be about $1.6 million per year, but that is based on current rates and we all know which direction power rates are going.

I agree emrald, that we are loosing productive agricultural land at alarming rates and once it's paved, we've lost it forever. I'm still not entirely convinced that forcing marginal lands to try and produce more will offset anything, particularly when we just grow more of what we already cannot sell at a decent price for the producer. If they were talking about growing specialty crops that would have value, then that is another story.

During the consultations for the Rural Development Initiative I fully supported getting the activity off of the highway #2 corridor and into the more outlying areas and I still do.

Transportation costs are skyrocketing and there doesn't appear to be any end in sight. That will play a significant role in any area's ability to develop. I look at the difference in price on a 4L jug of milk from Innisfail, to Spruce View to Caroline and there is about $1.50 difference and it is due to transporation costs. The milk doesn't cost any more to produce.

I agree that parts of Southern Alberta have prospered because of the irrigation.

This is a huge gamble that they are making and for a good number of years it will be at government's (aka our) expense. We do need to take risks in life and oftentimes those risks need to be managed and mitigated, as well as the long term examined and evaluated.

Oil and gas exploration hits the skids every few years and it wasn't that many years ago that oil was at $11/bbl. It is somewhat disconcerting that much of our development is based on something as volatile as a world oil price, particularly when we do not control the tap. Reply With Quote
Jul 1, 2005 | 11:50 60 I do think that varied crops will be grown if the land is able to produce. Cowman indicated that confined feeding operations may be able to locate in the Special Areas, and should any of them decide to do so cereal crops are the mainstay of both hog and beef production.
Niche markets may also be something that producers would want to look into but its pretty difficult for anyone to second guess what could be grown until water is available.

Who knows, maybe it would be Albertas version of Vegas ???? Anything is possible if people have a dream and can make it work !!! Reply With Quote