Red Deer River Watershed Alliance has key issues to solve

Strong leadership is needed to tie together the groups that have a stake in the health of the Red Deer River Basin, say members of the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance.

Strong leadership is needed to tie together the groups that have a stake in the health of the Red Deer River Basin, say members of the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance.

The Red Deer-based group, including municipalities, businesses and individuals from along the full length of the river, celebrated its fifth anniversary during its annual general meeting, held in Red Deer on Thursday.

Forester Tom Daniels, newly-elected chair of the organization, said the lack of an overall plan, including effective leadership, is a key issue members hope to resolve with the launch of a new project aimed at creating a management plan for the watershed, which runs across the province from Banff National Park to southern Saskatchewan.

A project to create an integrated management plan was kicked off Thursday following a recommendation in the group’s State of the Watershed Report, completed in 2009 and released early this year.

In his address to the group, Environment Minister Rob Renner, MLA for Medicine Hat, said the plan flows from the province’s Water For Life Strategy, which dovetails with the Land Use Framework and focuses on how various users are going to share the resources tied to each watershed.

“The Water For Life Strategy . . . focuses on collaboration. It focuses on having the users in any particular water basin think about how they’re going to share that water, how they’re going to put plans in place that will work for the benefit of all of the users of the water,” said Renner.

But he stopped short when Mountain View County Councillor Liz Negropontes asked him about creating an individual or body to take the lead in managing river resources throughout the province.

Negropontes said she has been lobbying for years for the creation of a centralized office able to take the point in situations such as the flooding and erosion problems experienced at various points along the river.

“I’m not going to stand here and commit that that’s something we’re going to do,” said Renner.

“We just talked about how tight things are right now. We will facilitate and do everything that we can, and there are some funds available after a flood to deal with some of those issues. But, I’ve seen the plans and I’ve seen what some municipalities would like to do and they go far beyond repairing damage, and that’s where I think we’ve got some difficulties,” he said.

The Watershed Alliance hopes to have a new management plan completed in 2012, but will take more time if necessary, said Daniels.

“We want to make sure we do it right,” he said.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com