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Last updateWed, 17 Jul 2019 10pm

Tax break planned for shallow gas operators

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    The Government of Alberta is showing support for struggling shallow gas operators in the province by offering them a tax break.
    Shallow gas companies will receive more than $23 million in support through cancelling 35 per cent of property tax for qualifying properties, and according to a press release, for the municipalities that will not be able to collect these taxes, the province will reduce the amount of education property tax they pay to the government.
     “You can’t tax business into bankruptcy. Unlike the previous government, which sat on its hands, our government is taking swift action to support shallow gas producers, protect municipalities and ensure a fair assessment model is in place for wells and pipelines. This initiative will prevent further company failures and job losses in our province, as we saw recently with Trident Exploration, while creating a more viable system for industry and government,” said Kaycee Madu, Minister of Municipal Affairs.
    Earlier this year, Trident Exploration ceased operations, and with this, they left their tax obligations to Starland County unfulfilled. They failed to cover its taxes last year and this year, which equaled about $3 million from each tax year.
    Reeve Steve Wannstrom said the program only applies to this tax year, which doesn’t help with losses from the previous year. He also said there was no assurance for the coming years.
    “The relief on the education tax is a short term band-aid to get us through before we take more of a hit,” he said.
    He adds it will take a motion of council for the county to participate in the program, and council has not yet discussed the program.
    Al Kemmere, president, Rural Municipalities of Alberta, said “We recognize municipal and education property taxes are not the core cause of the industry’s struggle, but are likely the only area in which short-term relief can be found, so we’re pleased with the Government of Alberta’s announcement, as it helps the shallow gas industry without unfairly penalizing rural municipalities. That said, in the long term, property tax should not be seen as a tool for relief.”
Wannstrom also wonders what properties will qualify, especially the former assets of Trident.
    “My question at the end of the meeting is if AER is straightening out all those ones that Trident has given up, the pipelines and the wells, and are divvying them out to other companies, how fast are they doing this, and if it is done soon, will we at least get  half of the year taxes?” he said.
    Ember resources operates many assets in the area that were once owned by Encana. CEO Doug Dafoe welcomes the announcement.
    “Minister Madu’s announcement of interim municipal tax relief is welcome and badly needed. We have struggled for years with a property tax assessment system that drastically over-values our wells and pipelines for tax purposes,” he said. “We appreciate how quickly the new government has recognized the severity of the problem and acted to protect this vital industry in central and southern Alberta. We look forward to working with Municipal Affairs toward a longer-term solution beginning in 2020.”

Canada Day Bike winners

It was a parade to remember, especially for two young winners of The Drumheller Mail’s win a Bike contest. Hundreds of parade-goers proudly waved their flag at the July 1 parade in hopes of winning a bike. The Mail ran two photos of the winners in the July 3 edition and the prizes were quickly snapped up.  Congratulations.

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Addison Fraser, 5, daughter of Megan and Blane Fraser, lives on a farm near Delia and was in Drumheller for the Canada Day parade. She tells the Mail she was happy to win her new bike.

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Hudson Bartlett, 5, son of Kerry Shelby of Calgary, was in the valley watching the Canada Day parade with family, when a Drumheller Mail photographer captured his image, wearing his special Canada Day glasses from grandmother Bev Shelby.

Riverside beaver “overpopulation” causes extensive damages


    Twenty beavers have been euthanized along Riverside Drive over the last two months as the area is showing signs of overpopulation, according to Drumheller’s director of protective services.
    The beavers were eliminated in the area along the river from the old hospital building on 6th Street East and the lift station near 19 Street East, where a number of trees have been felled by the large, primarily nocturnal, semi-aquatic animals.
     Drumheller Protective Service’s Greg Peters says there have been “signs of overpopulation” like scratch marks and wounds on the bodies of eliminated beavers which show they are fighting and bickering for resources here. While the town currently contracts a trapper to eliminate wildlife, Peters says he only eliminated 25 last year throughout the summer. This summer’s numbers are much higher, at 20

over the last two months.  
    “It’s like anything, the bigger the population you have, the more resources they need for more activity,” Peters said.
    Beavers fell trees for a number of reasons. They’ll knock down large trees

in strategic locations to form the basis of their dams. Dams protect against predators and provide access to food in the winter by allowing them to store food in caches. They work at night and can rebuild their primary dams in an evening.

    Peters says the beavers have been destroying trees along the river there and if they’re lost the integrity of the river bank starts diminishing due to erosion.
    “It can manifest itself in weird ways. We don’t want anything to erode the strength of the river bank.”
    The town contracts a licensed trapper who sets under water traps along the northeast side of the river, away from people and walking trails.
    Tim Schowalter, a local naturalist, says there are two reasons why municipalities might need to eliminate beavers: to prevent flooding caused by their dams or to save trees in areas such as parks or neighbourhoods.
    “It poses a legitimate conflict. Roads can be washed out or if they destroy your 30 year old tree, you won’t like that,” Schowalter said.
    Beavers are considered a keystone species in an ecosystem because they create wetlands that benefit other species. The species are thought to have the most influence on shaping a landscape, other than humans.
    Increased rains this year and an abundance of water and, subsequently, food in the river ecosystem might be bumping the population this year, or maybe a beaver population from another area such as Michichi Dam could have migrated to the area this summer, Peters and Schowalter said.

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