Message from the Chairman
The year is starting with some optimism, but there are always challenges. We had a fair amount of moisture this last winter which was able to both soak in and run-off to fill empty dams and dugouts. Now that we are warming up and it’s stopped freezing at night, the grass and crops have an opportunity to grow. A little rain now and then and we can look forward to a good year. However, with an El Nino building, we may once again be looking at a dry summer. Due to the amount of moisture this winter, the Americans did not incur a deficit on the “Letter of Intent”, which means that irrigations are once again threatened with an early shut-down this summer. This has become almost a yearly event and a full irrigation season on the Milk River is becoming less and less dependable.
Water Security continues to be a huge issue for the Milk River watershed. The International Joint Commissions’ (IJC) panel is in their second year (of a four-year study) to analyze and recommend options for both structural and non-structural solutions for improving water use with our limited supply. A dam upstream from the town of Milk River seems to be the best option, but it will be a long way off, if it is ever approved and built. Potentially another 15,000 acre-feet of water could be gained on a yearly basis. This could not only be used to increase irrigation and add to our economic development, but to firm up the reliability of the Canadian and American water supply. It would be used to increase the instream flow-needs required for our towns, fish, wildlife, and livestock in the watershed. It could also be used to aide our American friends with some of their water needs due to the siltation of the Fresno Dam, the upcoming construction and upgrades of the Sherburne Dam and the diversion. So far US$90M has been allocated on the American side, but this is just a start, they will need much more. A gate above the newly rebuilt drop-structure #5 failed and the diversion water has already been cut off this spring to facilitate repairs.
Several off-stream storage sites have been identified on the Canadian side, which would be relatively cheap and quick to build. This seems to be our best option at this time. We will be needing the help of our Alberta Government to guarantee our water needs. This would be a Canada-only solution.
We are very fortunate to have Allison Choquette on staff as our Wildlife & Outreach Technician. She will be continuing her work with bats in the Watershed. She will be working to identify bats in the area as well as supplying bat boxes and bat condos to ensure their future health. She continues to monitor the impending spread of White-Nose Syndrome in the bat populations around us. I have a property in Ontario on Lake of the Woods and there are no bats anywhere to eat all the mosquitoes and other flying insects in the night. I really miss the bats there.
Election time is fast approaching, so I urge people to please exercise their rights and VOTE!
Good Wishes, Good Health, and may it rain when you need it.
John A. Ross
Chairman, Milk River Watershed Council Canada