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Ponoka County council hears presentation on renewable energy and landowners

Highlights from the June 13 regular meeting
Using agricultural land for solar farms is becoming a growing concern in rural Alberta. (File photo by The Canadian Press)

Darcy Allen from the Farmers’ Advocate Office (FAO) gave a presentation on renewable energy and landowner considerations to Ponoka County council during their regular meeting on June 13.

He noted that the FAO is not in favour, or opposed to, the energy development operations.

Allen highlighted the following points:

• Renewable energy resources include moving water, wind, heat from the earth, sunlight and sustainable biomass.

• Flat farmland was the most desirable for these projects, however, there was push back from the local communities about using good farmland for these projects.

• The levelized cost of installing renewable energy had dropped significantly in the last 15 years.

• Alberta is the only deregulated utility market in Canada.

• Urban rooftop solar was being encouraged.

• Solar panels were now being located three metres above the ground so that the land underneath can be utilized.

• Wind turbines are now 165 m high.

• The Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) has full control of applications.

• The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) manages supply and demand of electricity.

• Alberta Environment and Protected Areas oversees reclamation.

• The Farmers’ Advocate office is a landowner resource.

• AUC Rule 007 contains a number of references where local authorities must be engaged including Section 1.2 Purpose of the participant involvement program (PIP).

• The notification radius for solar power plants is only 800 metres.

• Land use planning instruments are relevant to the board’s consideration because they indicate from the municipality perspective, the nature of the past, present and future uses of a proposed site or lands in close proximity to a site.

• Section 619 of the Municipal Government Act allows government agencies to exclude authority from municipalities unless the municipality intervenes.

It was agreed that serious policy work needs to be done to ensure that the projects were managed properly for the present and the future.

Ponoka chamber

A delegation from the Ponoka and District Chamber of Commerce spoke to council to advise about the new management direction the chamber is taking.

President Sherry Gummow, Jennifer Garries and Jamie Mantie attended the meeting.

The chamber has parted with the Leduc/Nisku/Wetaskiwin Regional Chamber of Commerce who has 15 staff members who specialized in areas that could benefit the Ponoka chamber.

Garries highlighted the initiatives the regional chamber would be following up on to ensure the success of the Ponoka chamber.

It was stated the business community needs to provide a unified method to approach local government for its needs. The amenities of the business area in Ponoka were not attractive to perspective developers/purchasers. Providing a good business environment creates a healthy economy which would draw residents.

READ MORE: Ponoka chamber enters management agreement with regional chamber

Johnson’s Beach Campground

Council voted to contribute $5,000 for 2023 to the Johnson’s Beach Campground to assist with maintenance costs for the campground.

The campground requested the contribution toward the cost of a new submersible pump and concrete work as well as light fixture replacement for the concession and bathrooms. T

hey would soon be looking to upgrade the power sites from 15-amp power to at least 30-amp power as well as replacing the playground equipment on the beach area.

Bridge repairs

Assistant chief administrative officer Peter Hall advised that the bridge repair on Township Road 44 west of Range Road 275 will need to be done this fall but had not been budgeted for. A temporary bridge has been installed until repairs can be completed.


Council passed third and final reading of a bylaw to reclassify Pt. SW 7-42-4-W5 (approximately 20 acres) from Agricultural District to Agricultural Small Holdings District.

Wildfire areas

Reeve Paul McLauchlin had toured the wildfire areas throughout the province on behalf of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta. A total of 1.4 million hectares of land had burned so far with more communities on alert for evacuation daily.

Central ASB meeting

Coun. Mark Matejka attended an area Ag Service Board meeting in Lacombe with local fieldmen and chairmen. Alberta Fish and Wildlife is expecting local fieldmen to manage predation concerns within their own areas.

Fire break concerns

Coun. Nancy Hartford advised that oil and gas operators had expressed concern at a recent Industry Crime Reduction meeting about fire crews and equipment working in areas where pipelines and facilities were not taken into consideration.

She also expressed concern with the lack of pavement on the aprons off Hwy 53 for the first five miles west of Rimbey.

Rimbey FCSS

Rimbey Family and Community Support Services organized several different activities for Seniors’ week that were reportedly well received.

Farming ditches

Coun. Doug Weir had received complaints about the use of the county ditches by ratepayers when adjacent landowners were farming right up to the road.

Regional Assessment Review Board

Council passed bylaw 14-23-CARARB, which allowed for a regional assessment review board to consider assessment appeals on behalf of Ponoka County.

Council also deemed that the fee to appeal to the regional board would be established as per the rates outlined in the “Matters Relating to Assessment Complaints Regulation (2018).”

Weed inspector appointments

Council appointed Alex Mercer, Rylan Hagemann and Lucas Walker as weed inspectors for the 2023 season.

Alternate signing authority

Given the retirement of Charlie Cutforth as chief administrative officer on June 30, council designated executive secretary Deborah Raugust as an alternate signing authority, effective July 1.