Changes to irrigation district law proposed

·1 min read

Irrigation districts could have more access to capital funding for infrastructure projects under changes being proposed to the provincial law governing them.

Currently, irrigation districts are prohibited from borrowing money for commercial activities under the provincial Irrigation Districts Act. But the provincial government is proposing Bill 54, the Irrigation Districts Amendment Act, that would make irrigation not included as a commercial activity under the Act.

In October 2020, a $815 million investment into Alberta irrigation districts was announced. A consortium of eight irrigation districts are providing 20 per cent of this funding as an investment and the provincial government is providing 30 per cent as a grant. But 50 per cent is being financed by the Canada Infrastructure Branch (CIB), to be repaid by the irrigation districts.

By allowing for this CIB financing, Bill 54 will help finalize this investment, said Devin Dreeshen, Agriculture and Forestry minister, in a news release. “This legislation will pave the way for even more agriculture investments across the province, increasing our competitiveness and driving Alberta’s economic recovery.”

Western Irrigation District (WID)’s board appreciates the additional discretion the WID will have to manage its district under the changes proposed, said Dan Shute, WID board chair.

“This demonstrates the confidence that the provincial government has in the WID. It’s a recognition of our stewardship in operating the district for the benefit of our water users and the communities we serve,” said Shute.

“We’re working to expand irrigation and save water – and because of the collaboration announced last fall, this can happen sooner, with accelerated investment in our infrastructure.”

The proposed bill will also include provisions for irrigation districts to create bylaws to create term limits for board members.

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times