Regional water line delayed, but still on track

Regional Tri-Council Notebook
June 14, 2018 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Tri-council members got an update on the regional water line project from Town of Slave Lake Project Manager Doug Baird. The newsiest bit was that due to the recent storm, the work in the lake on the intake had been set back by about a week.

“There’s quite a bit of damage out there,” he said, referring to the temporary dock area that serves the barge platform.

The barge itself took shelter from the high winds of June 11- 13 behind Nine Mile Point, while the waves rearranged the dock and the gravel beach around it.

The intake project is supposed to be finished by Aug. 15. It might be a later now.

Avoiding eagles’ nests is costing quite a bit of extra money, Baird said. This is along the line between Wagner and Slave Lake. How much extra the town hasn’t found out because the contractor hasn’t specified. One of the trees with a nest blew over in the same storm.
Already extremely wet, the ground between five-mile hill and Slave Lake is even soggier now. Baird showed photos from before the flooding; it’s much worse now, he said, but work on pipeline tie-ins continues. It just goes slower than normal. Expected completion date for the pipeline is mid-July.

FireSmart coordinator Brandy Walters spoke about various ‘community engagement’ initiatives coming up, including in Flatbush and Canyon Creek. The idea is to keep pushing the message about reducing wildfire risk on private property.

Wildfire risk assessments are being carried out on a couple of major industrial properties in the Mitsue Industrial Park, in conjunction with Alberta Forestry. Jason Pankratow of Alberta Ag. & Forestry said an updated emergency response plan for the entire industrial park is overdue.

Pankratow also spoke about fuel modification experiments in black spruce that are being conducted near Sandy Lake. The idea is to do treatments to black spruce stands that reduce the risk to nearby properties (i.e. the industrial park).

Geo-thermal opportunities, risks
Some council members had attended a presentation by a firm keen to exploit geo-thermal energy potential in the Slave Lake area. Apparently if you go down far enough, you can find temperatures of up to 170 degrees C. The kicker: the firm needs $40,000 from its municipal partners to go to the next phase. This is what has happened in the M.D. of Greenview.

“It’s easy to say ‘no,’ said Slave Lake Mayor Tyler Warman, making the presentation. “But it’s an interesting field. But it’s rolling the dice.”

Reeve Murray Kerik of the M.D. of Lesser Slave River was a bit skeptical.

“It costs us nothing to sit back and watch how it works in Greenview,” he said.

Economic development
Mayor Warman provided the latest on the group’s lobby to get provincial funding – along the lines of what official Regional Economic Development Alliances (REDA) get from the province. This is around 75 per cent.

The problem is the province prefers larger areas, representing more jurisdictions for official REDA status. Slave Lake and the M.D. once belonged to the Lesser Slave REDA, but for reasons never plainly stated, it has fallen apart, most members preferring not to be part of it. Since then, the town, M.D. and Sawridge First Nation have joined forces in regional economic development.

Warman said he, the reeve and the chief had met earlier that day with provincial reps to talk about the issues, including the possibility of REDA funding for the tri-council ec/dev group.

“They would like a larger region,” he said, adding that the County of Big Lakes and the M.D. of Opportunity have expressed interest in joining forces with the tri-council members. It’s something to consider, Warman said, with pros as well as cons.

Chief Roland Twinn, who was also chairing the meeting, was not for rushing into anything.

“Not to be pessimistic,” he said, “but to be cautious. We have to come up with a solid game plan of what we want to achieve (before going into a bigger group). How far do we want to go?”

Twinn also reminded the other council members that the First Nations perspective on economic development is different.

Reeve Murray Kerik said he was “not keen on losing autonomy as tri-council” by joining a bigger region.

Further discussions are expected.

Geo-thermal possibilities in the Slave Lake area, according to information handed out at the June 14 tri-council meeting.

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