County road repairs delayed pending approvals

Alberta Environment’s snail-pace approval process has stalled summer road repairs, says Red Deer County.

Alberta Environment’s snail-pace approval process has stalled summer road repairs, says Red Deer County.

Four of five small road projects the county planned to undertake this summer are in limbo awaiting the necessary sign-off from Alberta Environment, county council was told on Tuesday.

“This is a program that keeps our people moving,” said Mayor Jim Wood of the road maintenance work. “This is extremely frustrating.”

A provincial Wetland Policy introduced in 2013, which came into effect this past July, requires additional assessments for roadwork near wetlands and that has slowed the approval process.

Wood said the county has always taken environmental protection into account when undertaking road projects near water. But now the extra regulatory requirements have brought projects to a standstill.

“I can’t believe we would get to this point,” said Wood, who added area MLAs have been lobbied to raise the municipality’s concerns with Alberta Environment.

Coun. Connie Huelsman said in speaking with other elected officials around the province it is clear approval delays have become a “huge issue.”

Marty Campbell, the county’s operations services director, said the holdup means the county hasn’t been able to take advantage of good construction pricing in the current economy.

As well, given lengthy approval delays, the county can’t add other projects to its work list, says the county.

Other municipalities are facing the same problem and have joined forces with Red Deer County to find a better way. Rural municipalities are working together on a code of practice endorsed by the province. It would allow projects to go ahead as long as they met the terms of the code.

Campbell said Alberta Environment said in the spring it is considering the idea but there has been no further word for months.

To put some pressure on the province council approved a motion to forward a resolution calling for a timely approval process to the Central Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties for its October meeting. From there it could go to the provincial body representing rural municipalities, which lobbies the government on behalf of its members.