A well-known local dairy family says the commission building a regional sewer line along their property isn’t taking their concerns seriously.
The failure to secure rights-of-way agreements from the Wyntjes family has forced the commission that is building a regional sewer line to resort to expropriation.
The South Red Deer Regional Wastewater Commission issued notices of intent to expropriate on five quarter sections south of Red Deer last week. Land is needed for rights-of-way and easements for parts of the sewage line that will run from Red Deer towards Springbrook.
Family spokesman Tom Wyntjes said on Monday that discussions with the land agents got off to a bad start from the beginning. “We were always concerned right off the start with valuation,” said Wyntjes, who runs the 400-cow dairy operation William Wyntjes and Sons Farms Ltd.
The family is upset at the lack of guarantees that the line the front yard of his parents’ home south of Red Deer — where they have lived since 1961 — would not be dug up. They also wanted a guarantee that a line of 40-year-old trees would be preserved.
Four quarters owned by the Wyntjes family and four quarters they lease will be affected by the route chosen the commission.
“So we’re dealing with eight pieces of land we have to farm around during the construction season,” he added. “We run a fairly substantial dairy farm with high traffic needs.”
Silage trucks will need to make hundreds of trips in and out of the farm at a time when access is limited by construction, he said. That means adding more trucks at an unknown cost.
“We’re very certain they don’t understand our concerns.”
Wyntjes said the family regularly deals with oil companies and have worked out agreements without a problem.
While the commission won’t own the land, once a pipeline is buried, setback issues will limit use. For instance, if the family wants to bring in utilities to one of the undeveloped pieces of land, it must go under the sewage line, which will add cost.
Wyntjes said their lawyer has sent the commission’s legal representative a letter explaining their concerns.
They want the commission to guarantee where lines will be horizontally drilled and where open trenches will be used, fair compensation and a review of the route.
“We feel there are better routes.
“It’s not all about greed and money, it’s inconvenience. I know it’s going to be a headache,” he said of the pipeline construction.
Commission chairman Dennis Cooper said the commission is willing to work with landowners.
“We’re not ramrodding anything. We’ve had numerous visits with land agents.
“(The landowners) want to make sure they are being treated fairly and we do too, so we just have to follow the process.”
Efforts were made to limit the impact on landowners, but the route from Red Deer to Springbrook provided some challenges. There are many sloughs in the area, which under provincial regulations cannot be disturbed. The alternative would be to go deep beneath them, which is very expensive.
“So we tried our best route to stay within our budget and to save the lowlands. We’re trying to be as responsible as possible for our route so it works for the landowners,” he said.
“My main concern as chairman is that we effectively and efficiently build a safe pipeline so we can keep the Red Deer River clean.”
Cooper said it’s not the first time expropriation has been needed on the line, which has been under construction for several years. He doesn’t expect the process, which gives landowners an opportunity to state their case at an inquiry, will delay the pipeline project.
The pipeline is expected to start transporting sewage to Red Deer in March 2015.
Access to narrow strips of land along the quarter sections is needed to allow for the burial of the line four to five metres below the surface. The land will remain in possession of the property holder and will not be purchased by the commission.
“After we’re done, they will have their land to use and work and everything like this,” said Cooper.
Landowners face no costs associated with expropriation. Legal and assessment bills are paid by the commission.