Red Deer County wants the province to provide more options for replacing wetlands lost to road projects and other construction.
Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) issued an updated Wetland Mitigation Directive in June, which outlines how municipalities can replace wetlands when required.
However, one of the most useful options for municipalities such as Red Deer County is no longer allowed. That option involved the county using another party to enhance or construct a wetland to meet the replacement requirement.
The county wanted to have the option of using Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS), a program that provides per-acre annual payments to farmers and ranchers to help them restore wetlands, reforest, plant windbreaks, install riparian buffers and establish other ecologically beneficial projects on their properties.
“The wetland unit of AEP has stated they are not in favour of wetland enhancement for compensation, and as such the use of ALUS is no longer an option,” says a report to council from Dave Dittrick, director of planning and development services at Red Deer County.
The use of stormwater management ponds to meet the wetland replacement requirement is also no longer allowed.
Municipalities are left with two other options, says the province. One is to purchase available credit from a third-party wetland bank. However, that does not yet exist.
Another option is to make a payment to a designated wetland replacement agent, of which Ducks Unlimited is the only one.
Dittrick said one of the concerns with using Ducks Unlimited is that while the county can request its funding go to projects within the muncipality there is no guarantee. Depending on the size of the development the amount going to Ducks Unlimited could be in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Council unanimously approved a motion to send a resolution calling on the province to allow the use of groups such as ALUS and accept replacement wetlands created through stormwater management plans. The resolution will go to the Central Zone meeting of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA), which represents the province’s counties and municipal districts.
If approved there, it will go to the RMA’s fall convention in Edmonton for a vote.
Coun. Richard Lorenz expressed his frustration with the situation.
“I think it’s about time we ask the government to make some changes.”
Mayor Jim Wood said wetlands are critical to municipalities because they recharge underground aquifers among other benefits.
“I’m positive this (resolution) will pass all the way to Edmonton,” he said.