An idea will soon be looked into further that could have wetland compensation funds directed to local conservation efforts, once an provincial election is over. File photo

Ponoka County to lobby for wetland compensation changes

Hope is to have local decision making on what projects can be funded

An idea has spawned to change how and what wetland conservation projects receive funding.

Ponoka County council heard at its March 12 meeting that CAO Charlie Cutforth met with members of the Gull Lake Watershed Society (GLWS) to discuss the reason for the group’s recent request for $160,000 over four years.

Cutforth explained the group has an eye on purchasing a property along the south edge of Gull Lake that is currently used for crop land, but which also houses a wetland area. The GLWS is hoping to buy the land and leave the area to grow naturally and help improve the lake’s water quality.

However, Cutforth stated his initial view — plus that of Lacombe County — is the lake’s health falls in the lap of Alberta Environment and this project would be better funded through the provincial government.

RELATED: Ponoka County decision on $160,000 Gull Lake pump system delayed

One idea brought up that may work is allowing municipalities to utilize the present wetland compensation process, with just a slight change.

“The thought came up that as the county contributes to Ducks Unlimited for wetland compensation when the county conducts work that disturbs wetlands,” he said. “So, maybe we could come up with a process that instead directs those funds to local projects or groups.”

He added that by the municipality holding onto that money, it could then be distributed to groups such as GLWS or the Friends of Chain Lakes Society or other local conservation projects.

Cutforth noted, as well, that GLWS wasn’t in immediate need of the funding requested.

Council will look at lobbying the province to change the process, although that may have to wait as it’s expected the looming provincial election may delay the process.

More info needed

An application for a development permit to construct a 5,000 square foot metal building on county land along Highway 2A near Maskwacis was handed back to administration by council.

Micro Grow, a company hoping to operate a small scale medicinal cannabis production facility, hoped that council would approve the permit application in order that the company could start the process toward construction.

As the land is under direct control, council sets the parameters for the development; there were concerns about how waste from the operation will be handled, as well as what provisions will be in place for water and sewer.

Reeve Paul McLauchlin was concerned with waste from cannabis production. Some operations in other counties do not properly manage what’s left behind from the cultivation process, along with the smells that emanate from the facilities as a result of the production.

“I would suggest speaking to Mountainview County, who have dealt with some similar situations recently,” added McLauchlin.

“As well, I think we need more answers regarding the operation from the owner on such things as water and how they plan to dispose of the waste material.”

Assistant CAO and development officer Tom Webber noted there really isn’t much urgency to approve the application, as the Health Canada — responsible for regulating the production of marijuana — stated it could be four to six months before it even looks at Micro Grow’s application.

“That gives council lots of time to gather the information it needs,” Webber said.

Tire buffer

Council has passed a new bylaw that provides the lease terms for the tire buffing machine that will help process the vast amount of giant mining tires on its property north of town.

READ MORE: Ponoka County commits another $300,000 to tire recycler

Approval to get the machine for National Tire Recycling was given through council motion last month. However, the financial institution used by the county wanted the financing in a bylaw, as it would provide more assurance the institution would be paid.

As CAO Charlie Cutforth explained it wasn’t really necessary as the Municipal Government Act states the lease financing can be approved through a motion or a bylaw, but if by doing it this way the institution is more comfortable then it can easily be done.

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