It’s been a winter wrought with heavy snowfall and, as spring approaches, soon it’s going to begin to melt. However, it isn’t only from the snow that water problems arise for the county.
“We’ve got some people very concerned about water,” said Coun. Bryce Liddle, referring to run-off and road conditions.
“Just, they’ve got concerns on how it’s going to flow,” he added.
Liddle was asking council what the best way was to respond to such concerns and, although CAO Charlie Cutforth says it looks like the county is simply “passing the buck,” there isn’t much it can do. “The reality is the municipality has zero authority on private land.”
The only time the county can involve itself in water of drainage issues is if there is potential for it to affect a county road allowance or infrastructure.
If a county resident has water or drainage issues on their land, it’s up to them to correct the concern. Cutforth says if individuals want to change drainage or divert water, then a license is needed from Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.
“If it affects the neighbor and you’re applying for a license with water resources, that’s part of their licensing approval process,” said Cutforth. Once the neighbor is notified, if the diversion would have an adverse effect on them, it cannot be diverted.
Cutforth says in the past good farming practice was to drain wetter areas, making it more suitable for farming. However, that isn’t the case and even the county, when designing roads, must work around the water.
“It’s certainly not our mandate. In fact, we do not even have discretion to help somebody drain their land for them,” said Cutforth. “Not without them having the proper approval.”
He feels, with diverting water, problems aren’t being fixed, they’re just handed up to new people in a new section of land.
When the county is made aware of people moving water without licensing, they’re obligated to report them to water resources. Cutforth told council he had recently received a copy of an order issued for a couple with land near the Chain Lakes. The report was made privately and didn’t come through the county.
Cutforth says a big part of the problem that follows water is, people purchase land, and then attempt strip it of tree and water. “And that has become the norm.”
This practice is causing havoc among county residents because they either become frustrated with other land owners for diverting the water or feel they have the right to do the same.