- Published on Wednesday, 13 June 2012 10:55
- Written by Michael James | © DrumhellerMail.com
At the last meeting of the Drumheller Town Council, a delegation from Aqua 7 Regional Water Commission requested council consider a new proposal to expand the boundaries of its current agreement with Rocky View County.
Council voted 5-2 to accept the change, allowing water previously allocated for Kathryn to be sent throughout the northeast corner of Rocky View County.
The decision comes several months after a similar request by Rocky View was rejected 4-3. Councillors Lisa Hansen-Zacharuk and Jay Garbutt changed their votes.
In the previous request, Rocky View County asked for their allocation to be allowed to go anywhere in the county and gave a timeline of at least five years before the water was needed.
“I didn’t feel there was enough information, there wasn’t a good enough proposal, and there seemed to be a lot of miscommunication between their [Rocky View County’s] CAO and elected officials,” said Hansen-Zacharuk. “After it was straightened out and they came down. I felt more comfortable. They weren’t asking for more water, they just wanted to extend the border. They already had the right to that water.”
Under a prior agreement with Rocky View County, Drumheller would provide the county with 2200 cubic metres of water per day, but it was restricted to Kathryn.
For Garbutt, the major difference was the refined timeline as to when the water would be needed.
“The decision last time was based on a belief they had no need for our water for up to five years, so there was no rush in altering our agreement,” said Garbutt. “They came back with information that the timeline had tightened to two years. It made sense to reconsider based on the timeline changing.”
An issue had been raised at the meeting that the water was important for Drumheller as a means to entice businesses and industry to settle here, rather than the rapidly developing Highway 2 corridor.
“This is not about supporting the Balzac, Cross Iron Mills, development. They developed it without our water. I never perceived it as an economic development competition issue. I don’t believe we are truly in competition with communities on the Highway 2 corridor that also have a rail line for industrial development,” said Garbutt.
The decision, explained Garbutt, will also help develop Drumheller and support the region.
“We are trying to develop ourselves as a service hub, particularly in providing water. We have a fantastic facility not operating at its capacity,” said Garbutt. “Bringing on a wider geographic area so a member can use its contractually obligated allotment of water only makes sense. We want Aqua 7 to succeed and if Rocky View can’t meet its needs under the terms of the contract why would they continue to be a member.”
Bryce Nimmo, former mayor of the Town of Drumheller is glad to see the boundary be more defined, but warns further caution is needed, considering the voracious expansion of the Balzac area.
“I appreciate council isolated the area, so it’s basically in our service area, but I would make sure to watch what they do with the water. They’re major concern is to supply water to where they are really growing along Highway 2 and to the west of the highway. They’re involvement with places like Beiseker and Irricana is slim," said Nimmo. “If you have services, you’ve got one leg up on those who don’t. That’s why Rocky View is fighting to get all the services they get.”