County wants better watershed plan for Wolf Creek

Rather than participate in a Wolf Creek Watershed Drainage Plan headed by Alberta Environment

Rather than participate in a Wolf Creek Watershed Drainage Plan headed by Alberta Environment, Ponoka County council has decided to write a personal letter to Diane McQueen, minister of environment and sustainable resource development, about channels of the creek within the county.

The council was approached to participate in the plan, along with Blackfalds, Lacombe County and the City of Lacombe. However, they feel writing a letter to McQueen stating council doesn’t want to change the channels, just achieve better water flow, is a more beneficial option.

CAO Charlie Cutforth said Wolf Creek, from the county’s border to Battle River, needs to be cleaned, a topic that wasn’t originally going to be discussed if the council decided to participate.

“Alberta Environment is proposing a watershed management plan to be created for the Wolf Creek drainage area, from Blackfalds to the Battle River,” Cutforth told council at their Nov. 27 meeting.

The intent of the plan is to create a smoother process for stormwater management, in terms of design and how much release there can be from future developments in the area.

“I can certainly see the need for that. On the other hand, the City of Lacombe currently, since 1980, has a license to rechannel that creek to our county boundary. And, they have a current license to maintain that in a clear manner,” said Cutforth.

Cutforth told Alberta Environment he was certain the council wouldn’t want to participate unless the plan included a provision for cleaning up the creek from the county’s border to the Battle River.

He said the council didn’t want to re-channel the river, just clean up messes, such as deadfall, that have created flooding.

Following this, Cutforth said Alberta Environment decided to prepare terms of reference to see if council was interested. He said a provision states the plan and study will list the most appropriate stormwater practices for the study area, and the pros and cons will be evaluated.

Cutforth also said the biggest concern is discharge, whose levels can’t increase with future developments from what already exists.

Potential channel improvement options will explore how to return the channels to their original capacity.

Coun. Gawney Hinkley feels Alberta Environment is talking about changing all the culverts and bridges between Morningside Road and the river, which he believes isn’t necessary because the culverts have proven themselves to be large enough to handle the capacity of the last 25 years.

“Their talking multi-million dollars of construction and carrying that thing out when it would only take …  give me $50,000 and a backhoe and we’ll clean that out in two days,” said Hinkley.

The drainage project is working with Stantec Consulting, and Hinkley feels the procedures associated with Stantec regarding the plan aren’t necessary.

“Any dummy can walk that thing and tell you what’s wrong with it, they don’t need Stantec to do it.”

Cutforth agreed with Hinkley and said the points he was making weren’t the original intent of the proposal. “They’ve tried to include something in here to pique our interest in participating, in my opinion.”

However, Cutforth told council Alberta Environment feels improvement options must be regarded with caution because an increase in capacity will often result in a decrease in the channel’s stability.

The extensive analysis of the project is to ensure that stability.

“And it says it is also understood that Wolf Creek is a fish-bearing habitat,” said Cutforth. Fish concerns also have to be factored into the options.

Cutforth said even if council agrees to participate there’s still another major hurdle — Fisheries and Oceans.

The study alone costs $121,800 and the completion of the master drainage plan will cost another $69,800.

Cutforth feels the costs of the project aren’t worth the council’s participation. “It doesn’t address the concerns we have — it’s not going to solve our problems one bit.”

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