It’s fall and Starland County Council is concerned about the number of complaints being received about unauthorized activities occurring in water bodies, and within municipally controlled road allowances.
Starland CAO Ross Rawlusyk says the county has been getting reports of activities having to do with water and with road allowances that often need approval from Alberta Environment or the county. He said Council decided to send out information to clarify some of these issues.
"It is primarily educational,” said Ralusyk. “There is a lot of stuff that people may not be aware of, so we thought we would start trying to do a little bit of education on it because we have been receiving calls.”
Natural surface water bodies including rivers, lakes, wetlands and sloughs perform an important role in the environment. These include functions such as replenishing groundwater to maintain water tables for water wells, providing a supply of water for household and livestock use, conserving species and promoting fish and wildlife habitat, acting as a carbon sink by storing carbon from the atmosphere, and controlling the spread of salts into cropped areas.
He says residents need to bear in mind the provincial government is the owner of all water bodies, and Alberta Environment is responsible for the management of these resources.
Alberta’s Water Act requires that an approval and/or a licence must be obtained before undertaking a construction activity in a water body or before diverting and using water from a water body.
Approvals are required for activities like: partially or completely filling in a water body; any activity that has the potential to impact the aquatic environment including: field ditching, erosion protection, removal or destruction of vegetation or trees within the confines of the bed, shores or bank of a water body; any draining or re-alignment of a water body; and alterations to drainage channels that divert water onto yours or someone else’s property.
An approval is required under the Water Act prior to undertaking any activity affecting a water body. Any unauthorized activity could lead to enforcement actions under the Water Act or other Acts related to environmental protection. If you wish to report a potential illegal activity that affects a water body, you can call the Alberta Environment 24 hour emergency hot line at 1-800-222-6514. Your anonymity is guaranteed.
There are also concerns about road allowances.
“Road allowances are municipal properties. We’ll see an area that used to be all treed, and all the sudden it will be cultivated,” said Rawlusyk. “We are trying to crackdown on the use of our road allowances so we know what is going on.”
Section 18(1) of the Municipal Government Act notes that the municipality has the direction, control and management of all roads within the municipality. This includes the unused or undeveloped road allowances and trail systems that exist in many areas.
Council would like to remind all farmers that the 66-foot road allowance is owned by the county, and any farming activity within the road allowance without permission is considered to be unauthorized.
Council would like to remind all farmers that road allowances are public thorough fares, and access can’t be denied by adjacent landowners. It is also illegal to place rocks or other debris within any road allowance, and vehicles and equipment also can’t be parked within municipal road allowances.
Starland County Bylaw No. 1091 also prohibits the operation of vehicles on municipal road right-of-way when roads are susceptible to damage because of weather conditions.
Starland County would like to encourage respect for municipal road allowances, so these public access roads can be used by all residents.
The Administrative Guide for Approvals to Protect Surface Water Bodies under the Water Act is available through a link at www.starlandcounty.com. Additional information on Bylaw 1091 and activities that are regulated within road allowances is also available on the web site, or by contacting the Administration Office at (403) 772-3793.