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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - November 6, 1970, Lethbridge, Alberta Friday, THE tETHDRIDGB HERALD South Alberta Irrigation Works Crumble Federal Help Needed Now I t, v OBSOLETE WATER GATE Near Bassano in Ilie Eastern Irrigation district was built in 1917. It will be replaced at an estimated IRRIGATION lias proved its worth since being introduced into southern Alberta at the turn of the century. The resource remains in its infancy. It has transformed the dry plains into one of the most versatile and productive farm areas in Canada. Irrigation directly or indirectly affects every per- son in Canada every day. pair or replacement and otters ERODED CANALS Sacfi as the ones in the pictures are typical of many in soulh- ern Albcrla, Research with polyethylene plastic linings and concrete lined ditches have proven very satisfactory, bul are loo expensive far the districts and provincial govern- ment lo lake on alone. An estimated 10 per cent of Ihe irrigated land in Alberla or acres, is reduced lo unproductive waste because of seepage from unfincd ditches. Story Steve Bareham Photos Ellwood Ferguson There are some acres of irrigated land in southern Alberta. The acreage lias re- mained about the same for the past 20 years. The potential of the area is obvious when compared to Mon- tana's current acres he- ing irrigaled. Many governments have rec- ognized the need to participate in irrigation, not only through technology, but with financ i a I aid for construction and rehab- ilit't'on of irrigation systems. The United States government provides 50 year interest-free loans for rehabilitation. The Canadian government has not given financial support to southern Alberta's irrigation districts in any way over the past 20 years. The systems, now more than 50 years old, arc crumbling. OTTAWA ASKED A delegation from the Alberta Irrigation Projects Association (13 Alberta districts) went to Ottawa last spring and present- ed a brief to H. A. Olson, min- ister of agriculture and Jean Marchand, minister of region- al and economic development. Ottawa was asked to enter a cost sharing program, M'ith [he federal government paying 45 per cent, the province 41 per cent and the district 14 per cent of rehabilitation costs. The Alberta government con- sented two years ago and Uas since contributed S1.6 million to the districts. The AIPA delegates ieft Ot- tawa with little more than pass- ing assurance (lie matter would be investigated. Mr. Marchand said because of budget limitations there would be no funds for irrigation re- habilitation during 1970. It was also suggested that in a time of agriculture surplus it is hard for a government to jus- tify cost sharing in irrigation. Tlie AIPA countered by slal- ing irrigation does not contri- bute to surplus production crops but lo the growth of vegetables and other specialty cash crops. The delegates also asked Mr. Olson and Mr. Marchand why Ottawa continues to ignore pol- icy recommendation from com- missioned studies on irrigation. ISBC STUDV A study done in the Eastern Irrigation District in 1SEG states: "The conversion of nou pro- ductive arid lands into lands in- tensively fnrmcd, benefits not only the irrigation farmer lint also the community, Ills prov- ince and the dominion. "The EID is one of the oldest and largest districls in the province. Many of (he major structures immediate re- will require replacement in the fnfure." Tlie study listed direct, indi- rect and fringe benefits from additional farm production through irrigation. Net direct benefits to the EID were million per year. Indirect benefits were esti- mated at million. Income from producing, distributing and servicing the additional in- puts, about SB million. Rehabilitation cost estimates have been prepared by most ir- rigation districts and forwarded to the governments. The four major systems in southern Alberta have estimates as follows: St. Mary Hiver Irrigai i o n District, million; Taber Irri- gation District, million; Leth- hridgc Northern Irrigation Dis- trict, millon; Eastern Irri- gation District. million. CANADA LOSES LNID manager Les Toth said: "The province and the districts are quite willing to take a share of the financial cost involved, but we are not prepared lo. ac- cepl whal we feel is Canada's portion of Ihe burden. Until Ihe federal government acts, the matter is at a stalemate with no loss to anyone but the people of Canada. "There seems no way lo pro- ceed except as a joint venture, and consequently, when normal maintenance will no longer be sufficient lo keep the districts operative, parts of the system- will simply have to be shut down." Jake Thiessen, manager of the SMRID said: "It is time people stopped thinking about irrigation as strictly an agricul- tural resource. "Irrigation supplies domestic wafer (o almost people in southern Alberta and as such is the. lifeline of many commu- nities. "Towns such as Alagrath, Raymond, Warner. Stirling, Burdett, Vsuxhall, Noblcford, Bassano, Coalrtale, Rarnwell, Taber, Grassy Lake, Haw Isliird, Picture finite and Brooks would not exist were it "Irrigation is also responsible for many of south Alberta's rec- reational facilities, golf courses, bonling, hunting and fishing. "Other countries have realized the priority of irrigation and even developing countries like Africa and India have systems which put Canada 100 years be- hind. "Vim. topography, climate and soil of southern Alberta arc most suitable for irrigation. We supply water to acres without even pumping. OlDMAN RIVER FtUME Located 15 miles northwest of Forl Macleod was built in 1921, and is (he second major structure forming the Lefhbritfge Northern Irrigation dis- trict. The flume shows obvious signs of deterioration in the concrete pillars and sleel work. INID manager Les Tolh says that without the flume, no woler could_ be transported to any part of the tNID, The repair estimate on the structure is SoOO.OOO- 4 X, ,A IRRIGATION SPILLWAY-Near Fort Macleod was built in 1920. The wooden pillars in the liruciure are rotten with age. Rehabilitation estimates for the spillway aro about ;