Alberta Environment and Parks approval delays are holding up projects and boosting costs, say some rural municipalities.
Red Deer County endorsed a Rocky View County resolution being taken to the Rural Municipalities of Alberta fall conference urging the province to work with counties and municipal districts to streamline the approval process under the Water Act.
Lengthy approval delays — up to two years in some cases — have forced the county to cancel projects or delay tendering necessary roadwork, Marty Campbell, county director of operations services, told council on Tuesday.
County manager Curtis Herzberg said the province needs to give back stewardship responsibilities that have been taken away from municipalities.
Rural municipalities are not trying to cut corners, he suggested.
“I’m always afraid that this looks like we don’t have time to take care of our environment,” he said. “That is simply not the case.”
However, important projects are being held up while municipalities wait for the provincial staff to “look at a piece of paper,” he said.
Coun. Jean Bota said the province seems to feel municipalities are not qualified to oversee projects that involve Water Act applications.
“It’s almost like we’re not competent and we’re not able to do this.”
Mayor Jim Wood said the province has been reluctant to allow municipalities to make the kinds of environmental decisions they had been making effectively for years.
“Some years, two-thirds of our road projects have not been completed coming into fall,” he said. “That’s because of the slow approval process the province has applied. This did not happen prior to this current government.”
Wood said the county sometimes spend as much to line up approvals to change a culvert than the cost of the project itself.
Extending a culvert by less than a metre has saddled the county with expensive environmental studies.
“We always want to make sure we want to do our due diligence when it comes to the environment, we always have,” he said. “The problem is we then have the delay.
“Some of these projects are delayed for months and months and months. Some are delayed up to two years.”
That has left some county residents faced with travelling sub-standard roads for a long time before upgrading can begin.
Wood said all rural municipalities are in the same boat and he expects the resolution urging Alberta Environment and Parks to make changes will have widespread support.