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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - August 12, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta Yurko says dam on Oldman at least six years away By AL SCARTH Herald Staff Writer Water for the South In the mind of a previous provincial ad- ministration it conjured up visions for rerouting mighty northern rivers to serve the farmers and townspeople of the South Before the Social Credit government of Harry Strom went down to defeat in 1971, the plan was touching the half-billion dollar mark and in some quarters labelled an environmental night- mare One of the first steps in the plan, called PRIME or Prairie Rivers Improvement and Management Evaluation, was to be construction of a dam near Pincher Creek, the Three Rivers Dam In 1966, Harry Strom, then agriculture minister, announced that construction of the Three Rivers Dam would probably start within five years But five years later, his government was ousted and PRIME was scuttled by Conser- vative Environment Minister Bill Yurko Mr Yurko said last week in the three years since that decision, this administration has not changed its mind playing hopscotch with river basins But it has been successfully prodded by ex- panding world markets for irrigation-grown products to accelerate plans for a major im- poundment of water on the Oldman River That prodding is abetted by cries from scores of thirsty Southern Alberta communities and irrigation districts dependent on the Oldman system for their water And the province's forceful environment minister is already irritated by lack of action on the part of the Prairie Provinces Water Board In 1972, Mr Yurko with the other concerned ministers for Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ot- tawa signed a report five years in the making on the potentials of the huge Saskatchewan Nelson River Basin It said the water board, also a co-operative venture, should conduct demand studies on who wanted water for what in the Prairie Provinces But this cumbersome mter-provmcial-federal process is not moving fast enough for world agriculture markets or growing Alberta irriga- tion districts and communities. In announcing the province would go it alone, Mr Yurko said testily last week "If a general water demand study does eventually get under way, Alberta will expect credit for work already performed Part of that work will be the evaluation of several potential sites for reservoirs on the Oldman River At the top of the list is the Three Rivers Dam Site situated just below the confluence of the Oldman, Crowsnest and Castle Rivers Also under serious consideration is a dam site to the northwest, before the three rivers join, known as the Livingstone Gap Site When will one or the other or some other dam materialize' "My real guess would be around MX Mr Yurko said last week Lobbying by irrigation districts is having some effect on the government Mr Yurko said he found legitimate and serious concerns being ex- pressed when he visited the city earlier this summer concerns he had not heard sitting in his Edmonton offices But, he said he is determined that any plan must be given full public exposure That will include hearings by the province's Environment Conservation Authority and appointment of a local advisory committee for the Oldman River Basin Speaking from experience with impoundment prospects now under consideration for the Red Deer River, he said "The importance of the ad- visory committee can't be underestimated The Red Deer impoundment is at the top of the government's list of priorities After it, grouped with several other projects, come the Oldman impoundment plans "In Mr Yurko said in his announce- ment that specific bites for impoundment are un- der consideration There is enough water in the basin to accommodate existing needs But some seasonal shortages are being experienced at cer- tain times of the year "We are very close to the limit of supplies on a year-round basis 'If further development is to be assured lack of water must not limit food production, in- dustrial growth or enhancement of the environ- ment in the Oldman Basin In general, agricultural production will be shifted up a notch in the province's Water Resources Act this fall, disolacing water- consumptive industries for first consideration after domestic and municipal uses The province also announced plans last vear to spend about million o the next 10 years in conjunction with Ottawa and irrigation districts on improvements to irrigation facilities Additional stories, map on page 14 District The lethbtidgc Herald Local news SECOND SECTION Lethbridge, Alberta, Monday, August 12, 1974 Pages 13-24