Alberta briefs – September 18

The water treatment plant in the Town of Ponoka will be turned into a community activity centre thanks to funding from the federal government.

Ponoka to get a community activity centre

The water treatment plant in the Town of Ponoka will be turned into a community activity centre thanks to funding from the federal government.

The federal government will pay for half the costs of renovations to the structure, putting $87,100 towards the project, with the town footing the bill for the other half.

The funding is part of the Community Adjustment Fund, which is investing in projects to stimulate economic activity in communities during the recession.

Work will begin on the project in the fall and is expected to be completed before the end of 2010.

The Town of Ponoka is now part of the water commission and receives its water from Red Deer so the building was no longer needed for its original purpose.

Brad Watson, the chief administrative officer in the Town of Ponoka, said the building, in the northwest part of town, is in excellent shape to be used for another purpose.

The water treatment equipment will be taken out of the building so that organizations and groups can use the facility, which is surrounded by a large green space and has a residential area that is building up around it.

Watson said he could see people having a picnic in the green space, using it for family reunions or groups like the Ponoka Gymnastics and Trampoline Club using the structure.

There could be parks programs for children’s at the building in the summer or other educational programs offered through the new facility.

Watson said they are pleased to have received the funding.

He said otherwise the building might have been demolished, but it was too good of a building to demolish. “Groups and organizations are always looking for a place where they can meet. . . . So this is ideal. It’s win-win,” he said.

Crackdown on noisy boaters makes few waves with councillors

Lacombe County doesn’t plan to climb aboard an initiative by Sylvan Lake residents to crack down on noisy boaters.

The Sylvan Lake Watershed Stewardship Society is appealing to municipalities around the lake to identify a representative to sit on a new committee to review noise pollution on the lake.

Stewardship society past-president Kent Lyle sent a letter to the county recently asking if it could appoint a councillor to the committee or a county resident with a stake in the maintenance of peace and quiet on the lake.

County councillors were cool to the idea. Councillor Keith Stephenson asked why an existing committee that oversees the Sylvan Lake Management Plan can’t undertake the review.

“I don’t see any reason to have another committee,” he said.

County Reeve Terry Engen said the county has no control over lake noise.

“It’s out of our jurisdiction 100 per cent. Why would we fiddle with something (that) No. 1, we can’t change to start with.”

Councillor Rod McDermand agreed, saying noisy boats are an enforcement issue.

Council voted unanimously to send the issue to the Sylvan Lake Management Plan Committee for review.

Region should have more clout

FORT MCMURRAY — Alberta’s oilsands region wants more political clout.

A civic leader is calling on the province to divide the existing provincial riding of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo into two constituencies.

Melissa Blake, the mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, says such a move makes sense.

Blake says the existing riding has twice as many people as the average electoral district in Alberta and covers a huge area.

And she says the region’s population is expected to continue growing.

Alberta’s Electoral Boundary Commission is looking at increasing the number of ridings in the province from 83 to 87 in time for the next provincial election.

The commission is to hand down its report by next July.

Experts say few grizzlies outside parks

EDMONTON — After years of study experts estimate there are only about 581 grizzly bears roaming the land outside of national parks in Alberta.

The government says the number will be used in an independent scientific review that will help it determine if Alberta will allow the bears to be hunted for sport again.

The province suspended the grizzly hunt in 2006 over concerns the bear population was too low.

Hunting groups have been lobbying Sustainable Resource Development Minister Ted Morton to reinstate the hunt immediately.

Morton said the independent review must be completed before a decision on the hunt is made next year.

“Grizzly bears are an iconic part of Alberta’s rich biodiversity and heritage, and the Alberta government is committed to keeping them on the landscape,” Morton said Thursday.

“This population study and other research, such as mapping of core grizzlly bear habitat, will continue to guide and improve grizzly bear management in Alberta.”

Conservation groups say the 581 number is worryingly low and called for the provincial government to take quick action to protect the bears, including listing them as a threatened species.

Groups also want to limit motorized access in areas frequented by grizzlies.

“With the new population data we have a more complete picture of Alberta’s grizzly population and it doesn’t look good,” says Nigel Douglas, conservation specialist with the Alberta Wilderness Association.

“Albertans will not accept continued government delays on recovery. The time to act it now.”