Renner says watershed groups may have to do with less funding

Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner says community-based groups like the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance will continue to play a role in protection and long-term planning of water resources.

Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner says community-based groups like the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance will continue to play a role in protection and long-term planning of water resources.

But they may have to do it without extra funding beyond the $250,000 maximum each of the 11 regional watershed councils receives annually from the province.

“We have no intention of removing that baseline of funding. We made a point of preserving that funding even though we were dealing with some pretty severe restrictions on overall departmental funding,” said Renner at the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance meeting on Thursday at Quality Inn North Hill in Red Deer.

But he said councils should look for funding for special projects from a broader base, like groups and organizations that benefit from the work of councils.

“I’m not sure we’ll be able to continue to the same degree with those types of grants that we have in the past.”

For 2011-12, the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance received $118,000 in additional funding from Alberta Environment.

In 2009, Alberta Environment announced a cap of $250,000 on core funding to the regional councils.

The Red Deer council received core funding of $324,950 in 2008.

The Red Deer council leads watershed planning, develops best management practices, fosters stewardship activities, reports on the state of the watershed, and educates users on the importance of water resources in the Red Deer River watershed, from the Banff Park boundary to the Alberta-Saskatchewan border.

Renner said the Red Deer River and its watershed is very healthy.

“It’s the only river in southern Alberta that doesn’t have a moratorium on licences. That being said we need to be vigilant. We need to be ensure that we are mindful of emissions.”

There are no pressures on the Red Deer River at this time, he said.

“But that’s not to say that with unrestricted development, without keeping our focus on the outcomes, that we couldn’t find ourselves in a difficult position. But I don’t anticipate that over the next few years.”

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com