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A l b e r t a

Volume Fourteen • Number Two


Fall 2010 • Price $3.50
Powering Business Worldwide
Table of Contents A l b e r t a

is a proprietary publication of
This Issue
4 Letter from the Editor
Head Office
6 Roundup Ready Sugar Beets Bring Beet Farmers 1320 - 36th Street North
Into Min-Till Lethbridge, AB T1H 5H8

Toll Free 1-877-328-0048


7 Clean, Smooth Ditches and Soil Spread In One Pass Phone 403-328-5114
Email: adsales@farmpressltd.com
8 Reinke Introduces Touch Screen Controls Reproduction or use of editorial content in any man-
ner without written permission is strictly prohibited.

10 Urban Partnership Creates Regional Consistency Thank you for supporting our advertisers.
Without them, this publication would not be
possible. Irrigating Alberta is proudly produced
11 Efficiency Pointers from a New Study in Southern Alberta and distributed inside the
Farmer/Stockman Ad-Viser to over 21,000
farms and ranches.
12 A British Columbia Perspective from an
Alberta Irrigation Fellow
Publisher
14 State of the Oldman River Watershed Report Jeff Sarich

18 A Farm Machine That’s Not Helping Editor


Claudette Lacombe
19 Getting the Most from Nitrogen Advertising Consultants
Al Such, Mel McDonald
20 Southern Irrigators Building Alternative Habitat
for Migrating Birds Pre-Press Production
Lisette Cook
22 Fond Family Memories of Fishing the ID Waters
Advertising Co-ordinator
23 New List has 49 Prohibited Noxious Weeds Sarah Sarich

Cover Photo
24 New Water Ethic Needed in Canada Claudette Lacombe
26 Trees Take Priority for Water as Irrigators Idle Pumps
and Sprinklers
28 Savor Sweet Summer Spots
30 Wetlands Mitigation/Compensation in Alberta

McGregor Lake

IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010 • 3


Letter from the Editor

A
All right already! Do you think
our ground water resources have
recharged well enough in the
past three years that we can
begin the drought cycle again?
Excuse me, some of you may not
find that funny. It’s just that I’ve been
very smug over the past decade or so
about living in the part of Alberta
where the sun always shines and the
temperature is at least five degrees
warmer than where the rest of the fam-
ily lives.
So, these wet, cold years were not on
MY agenda. I have to assume there are
a few folks in south-eastern Alberta that
feel the same way.
I can hear them, “On what planet do
my crops wash away before they finish
For instance, the morning of Aug.
germinating?”
20, I got up to a downpour taking place
If you go and back and look, my
outside. Later that afternoon when I
spring editorial said, “There is no way checked the rain gauge it had three mil-
of knowing in January what kind of limeters in it. Might as well spit on the
water season we have coming.” I am potato plants for all the good that rain
now humbled by the accuracy of that did.
statement. My message here is that the agricul-
Ironically, the records show that this tural irrigation community has a lot
is still a below average water year! Aug. they can teach the current urban popu-
21 took me to an event on the banks of lation of Alberta. Our urban centers are
the Bow River in Calgary. It’s a familiar full of folks that have no understanding
spot to me, so I noticed that the river is of growing things is this climate. In fact,
low. There was more gravel beach than could someone drop by and tell we why
I’m accustomed to seeing in that spot. I got one, that’s right one, corn plant
More than once this year, I toured this year?
urban gardens dying of thirst while the I got more canola and wheat from
caretakers say, “But it’s rained so much the composted manure I had delivered
this summer how can they be dying of this spring than I did corn and carrots I
thirst?” “Well,” I say, “When your soil planted. See! I’m really not a farmer.
cracks and your plants turn brown, they However, because of my work, I’ve
need water. Get a rain gauge and watch learned a huge amount of useful infor-
how much water accumulates from mation from farmers. I even have a
these rains.” presentation based on that and a yard
It’s a perception problem as I’m sure that survives because of it.
this audience knows… or maybe not. So, if you’re not doing anything this
Perhaps generations of southern winter put together a talk about grow-
Alberta blood teaches the body that it ing things in southern Alberta and go
only seems like it’s rained every day and talk to a local urban group. They will
that the world is constantly wet. love you for it – trust me!

4 • IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010


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IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010 • 5


Roundup Ready Sugar Beets
SUGAR BEETS BRING BEET FARMERS INTO MIN-TILL
BY HELEN MCMENAMIN

R
Roundup Ready beets that have been available for
Alberta beet growers for the last two years are such
a success all the varieties Roger’s Sugar are testing
are now Roundup Ready.
The herbicide-tolerant beets also make strip tilling, also
called zone tillage, much more practical. Roger’s Sugar
researcher Peter Regitnig has worked on zone tillage for a
while, but he hasn’t had much faith in it – until now.
“We can implement strip tillage much more efficiently
now we have Roundup Ready beets, “ he says. “It helps too
that we now have a second generation strip tiller.”
Zone tillage for beets means tilling a strip 8 to 10 inches
wide and banding fertilizer at the same time. Regitnig’s new
machine also has quite aggressive disks behind the banding
Wheat in unharvested beets - Demo Farm Photo: Peter Regitnig
shank that can throw up ridges, and a packer behind. Usually
growers strip till and band fertilizer in the fall and seed into
the ridges in the spring. GPS also helps in placing the 22-inch
apart rows right over the fertilizer band. Many growers are
using sub-inch accuracy RTK GPS systems, so they can place
inputs very precisely.
The innovations have stirred up more interest in zone
tillage among beet growers, says Regitnig. So far it hasn’t been
widely adopted because yields some years are a tonne or two
below those with conventional tillage. Most growers who use
zone tillage have light, sandy land prone to erosion that
makes the risk of yields up to 9% lower acceptable. For other
growers the risk of dropping $90 in returns keeps them using
traditional tillage. Regitnig is working on identifying the
other practices that might allow growers to get the same or
better yields with strip tillage and conventional systems.
The decision whether or not to reseed a thin stand is being Zone tillage cultivation trial - Taber Photo: Peter Regitnig

revisited because the old herbicide caused some crop injury,


you could expect to lose some productivity. But glyphosate none of southern Alberta’s growers ever use. Beet harvest had
doesn’t set the crop back and a crop that might have been hardly started last year when a spell of very cold weather hit
reseeded before Roundup Ready beets may now be produc- at Thanksgiving. The beets lost their ability to store over the
tive enough to keep. winter in piles outside and Lantic was forced to ration deliv-
Traditionally, beet growers have broadcast and incorporat- eries. Between 20 and 25% of the crop was left in the ground.
ed most of their nitrogen fertilizer in spring, but last year, This spring part of a field with unharvested beets was
Regitnig tested banding N. For that year, his yields were as plowed and another part disked before seeding grain. The
good with 120lbs of N as with the usual 150lbs – a 20% rest of the field was direct seeded.
advantage. “There was quite a bit less decomposition of the beets than
Beets use lots of nutrients and root to 4 to 6 feet, but the I expected,” Regitnig says. “We were seeding right into them.
best placement for their fertilizer hasn’t been much But, now, in mid-August, the direct seeded crop looks just as
researched. Regitnig wonders if high rates of N may be caus- good as the parts of the field we worked before seeding.”
ing some unrecognized injury to beets. He’s comparing fall- Lantic always aims to take all the beets from all its con-
and spring-applied fertilizer and banding at varying depths tracted acreage, but some American sugar plants have not
below the seed row. He’s also wondering whether ESN, coat- had enough capacity to process their growers’ entire crop a
ed urea that soaks up moisture and gradually releases the few times in the last six years.
fertilizer into the soil might reduce injury and improve the “We don’t foresee that ever happening here,” says Regitnig.
efficiency of beet N use. “But, maybe growers in the US can use this information. I
This year, Regitnig has one field experiment he hopes hope we don’t need it here.”

6 • IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010


Clean, Smooth Ditches and Soil
CLEAN, SMOOTH DITCHES AND SOIL SPREAD IN ONE PASS
BY HELEN MCMENAMIN

G
Good drainage can be as important as getting water
onto crops, especially in a year like this one. Doug
Stanko found a rotary earth-mover to clean out
blocked ditches or make new drainage channels in
one pass and it spreads soil so well you can seed right
away.
The Wolverine is the invention of retired farmer and
equipment salesman, Adolf Vaags of Dugald, Manitoba. He
knew the problems of scrapers for cleaning ditches – wheel
ruts from going back and forth, soil compaction and, worst of
all, piles of soil to spread on the fields. After 10 years if work,
Vaags’ company builds machines that do it all in one pass and
he’s confident The Wolverine will stand up to hard work for a Lomond farmer, Doug Stanko is so impressed with the
long time. Wolverine he became a dealer for them. Photo: D. Stanko
The Wolverine has a 5-foot wide blade that cuts 2 to 6 inch-
es deep and delivers the soil by a rotating drum with fingers The Wolverine is designed for heavy clay soils and it can
and paddles into the centre of the machine, where a rotating handle water as well as soil. But it’s not made for land with a
impeller spins the dirt out. The soil can be blown out to the lot of rocks. A shear pin protects the drive train if a rock or a
right or the left and it’s spread evenly over 150 feet to either piece of iron gets in. The company is working with another
side of the machine. The open auger behind the blade of the machine, the Liebrecht ditcher, which is designed for land
machine breaks up the soil, so that it’s quite fine as it shoots where there’s lots of rocks.
out of the impeller. According to Vaags, the Wolverine makes a ditch two or
The machine has huge capacity, 600 yards, almost 1.3 mil- three times as fast as with bucket earth movers and you don’t
lion pounds of soil per hour (that’s 4 inches of soil over an have 10 or 15-yard piles of lumpy soil to spread or to spoil
acre). It can run at 1 to 4 mph, so it takes a big tractor, at least your seeding job next spring.
300hp to pull and power it. The impeller runs off the pto. Visit http://www.dynamicditchers.com/ to see a video of
“It just glides along and it goes places a regular dirt buggy the Wolverine at work.
can’t go, through water, anywhere,” says Stanko. “It makes
beautiful smooth channels you can drive any equipment over
without even slowing down, or seed right through. There
should be no problems with pivots getting stuck in these chan-
nels. And the soil spreads so evenly, you can even put it over a
growing crop.”
Stanko has used his Wolverine to prevent water ponding
under pivots, diverting it to other areas where it can soak in.
He won’t have to pump out ponds again.
On his rolling land, near Lomond, he’s made wide water-
ways with gentle slopes so water can run slowly and not erode
channels. He’s also cleared grassed waterways that had become
blocked with too much grass so that water ran to the sides and
made new channels. Coulters help the blade cut through trash
that can build up in ditches or grassed areas.
Stanko was so impressed with the Wolverine, he’s become
a dealer for Dynamic Ditchers, Vaags’ company. Some of his
neighbors have been impressed too and a custom operator in
his area has thousands of acres of work booked for the fall.
Laser or GPS leveling equipment fits easily on to the
Wolverine blade. Tractor-mounted GPS works well too
because it’s easy to follow your track on the screen, or you can
use GPS to follow a preset route.

IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010 • 7


Reinke Introduces Touch Screen Controls
BY RIC SWIHART

A
Applying the optimum amount of water to produce Barry Jensen, regional
manager for RPH Irrigation
the best crop remains the goal of RPH Irrigation in
Services Ltd. Photo: R. Swihart
Lethbridge as it markets Reinke low- pressure centre
pivots.
Barry Jensen, regional manager for RPH Irrigation
Services Ltd., said the company’s reliance of trademark irriga-
tion components, especially Nelson Irrigation and Senninger And now, Reinke has
products, has made the firm an innovator in North America. introduced the first touch
“Reinke does some things nobody else does,” said Jensen. screen control panel
“For instance, Reinke introduced GPS controls in 2004. That Jensen says works espe-
allowed farmers a system of irrigation control and even end cially well on multi-
gun control with GPS accuracy, although other companies cropped parcels of land.
have it now.” “We can control water
RPH is a member of the Alberta Chapter of the Irrigation flow to the crops down to
Association formed in March 2001. Its mission is to promote one foot between crops,”
efficient and effective water management and be the voice of he said.
the irrigation industry for Alberta, Saskatchewan and The company also introduced the first five-year structural
Manitoba. warranty when a two-year warranty is the industry standard.
Jensen said it all started in 1968 when Richard Reinke This year, its three-wheel tower support structure won inter-
introduced the Electrogator to the industry, the world’s first national acclaim because it has a flex axle allowing weight to
reversible, electric gear-drive centre pivot. remain distributed equally on the three tires. It is also a main
way to reduce deep wheel tracks that build during the irriga-
tion season.
Jensen said the touchscreen and the flexible, three-wheel
tower base earned Reinke two of the 50 American Society of
Agricultural and Biological Engineers international awards
for outstanding innovations.
Weather still has a bearing on irrigation, said Jensen. For
instance, he recommends farmers apply water in the fall to
prime the fields to be planted in the spring. This year, Mother
Nature did a bang-up job of filling the soil profile in many
areas.
“That complicated farmers’ ability to seed as readily in the
fields that had been fall irrigated,” he said. “I still think man-
aging irrigation water is the key to making money on the
farm.”
Jensen said Reinke offers a single-phase electricity power
option for pivots. The new option removes the need for a 480-
volt three-phase power supply, he said. “This option
eliminates the need for phase converters, generators or run-
ning new electric lines.” Such systems are limited to six pivot
towers or a maximum length of 1,000 feet.
1431 - 13 STREET, COALDALE, ALBERTA T1M 1M7
Jensen said the reduced cost of such a system could be the
difference in switching to a mechanized irrigation system that
can save farmers as much as 50 per cent in power bills.
Jensen said he uses the Nelson family of irrigation sprin-
kler attachments that includes nozzles, partly because they are
made in the United States and are the best in the business.
“The Nelson slogan, which we fully subscribe to, is ‘Saving
Water, Saving Energy, Saving Labour and Doing a Better Job
of Irrigating,’ ” he said.

8 • IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010


IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010 • 9
Urban Partnership
URBAN PARTNERSHIP CREATES REGIONAL CONSISTENCY
BY RON MONTGOMERY

T
The Oldman River Region Urban GIS Project is an out-
standing example of intermunicipal cooperation that
produced a valuable information resource for all
involved. The project is a partnership between the
Oldman River Regional Services Commission (ORRSC)
and 36 urban municipalities located in southern
Alberta.
The Town of Coalhurst began the process by asking the
Oldman River Intermunicipal Service Agency (ORISA) to
explore the creation of a shared municipal GIS (geographic
information system). ORRSC contacted urban municipalities
within the southern region and found enough support to
begin with interested municipalities. ORISA accepted the
mandate to design a program and to investigate funding
options.
ORISA staff designed the implementation schedule and
prepared the budget for the project. They inventoried existing
digital information, hardware and software requirements and
extrapolated both the budget and implemention schedule
from this initial information. CAOs from Towns of Coalhurst,
Taber, Coaldale and Pincher Creek, collaborated with staff
from ORISA to prepare the enhanced grant application.
Steven Ellert of ORRSC, one of the founding creators of
this program, explained that through intermunicipal cooper-
ation, the partners worked together over the past eight years
to create a centralized regional Geographic Information
System (GIS). The project design makes it economically feasi- Some statistics:
ble for small and medium sized communities to have access to • Started in 2002 with 18 municipal partners
GIS technology by sharing resources and expertise. The • Presently 36 municipal partners
ORRSC office in Lethbridge houses the GIS infrastructure
• Serves a total population of 92,195
and staff that use the Internet to deliver information to part-
nering municipalities. The municipal partners and planning • Extends south from Coutts north to Rocky Mtn. House
staff at ORRSC benefit from immediate access to information • Over 55,000 parcels managed
for decision-making, land use planning and infrastructure • Over 400 Land Use Districts
management. • A user can be trained in as little as 2 hours
Users of the GIS extend beyond staff of the municipalities
to staff of contracted assessment and engineering companies. solve all regional planning commissions in the province.
Steven comments that, “We also provide GIS service to the Subsequently, the member municipalities formed ORRSC to
Towns of Olds, Rocky Mountain House, Innisfail and Penhold carry on the same functions to ensure consistency in terms of
in the Red Deer area to assist an organization similar to staff and planning advice to members. ORRSC has a long
ORRSC, Parkland Community Planning Services. We’ll be planning history in southern Alberta and has evolved from
providing them with GIS until they have infrastructure in various forms since 1955 when it first started as the
place to host their own web-based application. Presentations Lethbridge District Planning Commission.
to various groups are ongoing as interest in the service One major duty of ORRSC is to process applications for
expands.” subdivision on behalf of member municipalities. Although the
Historically, ORRSC was recreated and renamed in 2003, processing is conducted by this organization, a municipal sub-
from the previous Oldman River Intermunicipal Service division authority makes the decision.
Agency (ORISA) established in 1995 as a successor organiza- For further information on ORRSC and their various pro-
tion to the Oldman River Regional Planning Commission. grams, including more detailed descriptions about the Urban
The Municipal Government Act, 1994 was amended to dis- GIS Project services, visit www.orrsc.com.

10 • IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010


Efficiency Pointers from a New Study
BY RIC SWIHART

C
Conserving water and improving energy efficiency is
always important in irrigated agriculture. Gregg Dill,
Alberta Livestock & Meat Agency
Introduces New Chair, Board Members
a former Alberta Irrigation and Rural Development
The Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA) named three new
irrigation engineer says new technologies developed Board members, including an Alberta veterinarian with extensive
international business experience.
by industry and adopted by farmers help.
Dr. David Chalack, DVM; Anne Dunford and Jurgen Preugschas
That’s why Dill jumped at a chance to do a study for the
bring considerable industry knowledge and talent to the ALMA
AgTech Centre located on the campus of Lethbridge College Board.
to do a random selection of irrigation systems and energy Each brings extensive agriculture experience spanning many
sources to develop a checklist of how farmers can meet both years of actively working within the livestock industry. As Board
goals – conserve more water and use energy more efficiently. Chair, Dr. Chalack brings valuable leadership skills and an ability
The study started by selecting 11 irrigation systems for to understand complex issues and develop proactive solutions.
energy assessment during the 2009 irrigating season. Okotoks resident Dunford, General Manager and Marketing
Specialist for Gateway Livestock Exchange in Taber, has a broad
Five systems used natural gas and six used electricity. Three knowledge of livestock marketing along with years of networking
systems were wheel line, two powered by natural gas. Six were experience in the livestock industry.
standard quarter section pivots, three with each energy Preugschas, a Mayerthorpe hog producer with 39 years of agri-
source. One was a quarter section pivot with a corner arm and culture industry experience, is currently Chair of the Canadian
one a section pivot with a corner arm, both with electrical Pork Council.
energy. For further information on ALMA, visit www.alma.alberta.ca
All recommended measurement equipment was used to
determine the operation of the various systems and power
sources. The basics for the study is that the ideal electric effi-
ciency is 74.3 per cent and natural gas 20 per cent. PARRISH &
The study showed average efficiencies were electric 66.8 HEIMBECKER,
per cent and natural gas 15.2 per cent. It also showed that the LIMITED
potential improvements were electric 11 per cent and natural
gas 31 per cent.

Opportunities to improve energy efficiency and


reduce water use include:
• Check nozzles and pressure regulators to ensure they
are not plugged, something many irrigators fail to do Serving the Agriculture Community Since 1909
often enough; ALBERTA LOCATIONS
• Confirm mainline pipe size if purchasing land with an
Head Office: 480 - 220 4th St. S.
existing irrigation system;
• Use pressure gauges and flow metres to monitor any Lethbridge, AB T1J 4J7
system; Phone: 320-9440 Fax: 328-8561
• Look for leaks, plugged nozzles, pipe size and proper
Bow Island . . . . . . . . . (403) 545-2748
motor speed before replacing a pump;
• Check a natural gas-powered engine to confirm the Dawson Creek . . . . . . (250) 782-5625
engine speed with a hand-held tachometer to confirm Medicine Hat . . . . . . . (403) 526-2831
the engine tach is working properly, and; Milk River . . . . . . . . . (403) 647-3633
• Trim the pump impeller to match the lower pressure
Mossleigh . . . . . . . . . . (403) 534-3961
when replacing a high-pressure sprinkler package with
a low pressure package. Vulcan . . . . . . . . . . . . (403) 485-2727
These suggestions should be included in your regular Wilson Siding . . . . . . . (403) 381-8710
maintenance and operation program.

IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010 • 11


A British Columbia Perspective
A BC PERSPECTIVE FROM AN ALBERTA IRRIGATION FELLOW
BY STAN KLASSEN

I
I recently came across a copy of Irrigating Alberta,
which immediately brought some great memories to
mind. How time flies when you are having a good
time.
After observing a profound number of changes in water
management in Alberta during my tenure as executive direc-
tor of Alberta Irrigation, it left me with ‘water running in my
veins’ as they say. The highlight for me however, was to see the
lion’s share of the doom and gloom attributed to the future of
the Old Man River Dam, thoroughly refuted by the time and
experience of its operation.
The cries that the fishery would be decimated, the deer
around the new reservoir would disappear and of course
southern Alberta would be the loser - couldn’t have been
proven more wrong. I often wonder where the “veterinarian
turned environmentalist” is now spending her time, when her A water reservoir BC-style.
Arrow Lake on the Columbia River. Photo: C. Lacombe
credibility has been thoroughly challenged, over these nearly
twenty years. Where’s “Cliff ” when water resources are being
discussed, or for that matter, his infamous caterpillar operator, There are so many irrigation districts around here, that are
while the dam was under construction? also purveyors of water to urban communities, it is nearly
I am reminded that while a mere 5% of the arable land in impossible to keep track. Legislation here would appear to be
Alberta is irrigated, it is directly and indirectly responsible for somewhere behind what was, some time ago, Alberta’s
about 20% of the gross agricultural production in what was, Irrigation District’s Act. There are at least three, maybe four
“Ralph’s Country.” “Those were the days my friend, we (I) irrigation districts supplying water to residents of Kelowna
thought they’d never end,” but for me they did. All good things proper, not including the city itself, and in many ways, it
come to an end, I guess, but that doesn’t mean what was start- appears, they each dance to the beat of their own drummer.
ed by the early pioneers, doesn’t continue to flourish through Of course, given the warmer summer in the prairies this
the generations that have followed. Truly, these pioneers are year, no doubt the recreational value of these man-made lakes
responsible for turning the desert into a flowering garden, and in southern Alberta are being rediscovered. Around BC, boats
thereby feeding a disproportionate number of hungry urban- are almost considered a right of passage, but around southern
ites in centres like Calgary and Edmonton….oh that Taber Alberta, were it not for the foresight of the early pioneers, the
Corn! boat builders and dealers would be non-existent.
It is not clear to me what is the status of the Irrigation Act I love the canals that snake through this rich part of
today, that I was privileged to play a part in rewriting, but I Canada’s landscape, flowing from reservoir to reservoir, and
very much remember that it was, at the time, probably the turning the landscape into a beautiful green that is reserved
most progressive water legislation in the country. Since I have for the lushest part of western Canada. Humans and animals
taken up residence in the British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, alike, are intuitively drawn to these oasis, almost wherever, in
I continue to be pleasantly surprised at Alberta’s advanced southern Alberta, they find themselves.
Water Act. Alberta, keep up the great work!

The Battle to Build a Sustainable Agricultural Workforce


University enrollment in crop sciences declines despite a growing demand for talent.
While the U.S. job market remains in the doldrums in the wake of one of the deepest recessions in history, there is at
least one profession bucking the trend. Job opportunities in the crop sciences are booming.
One driver: an aging workforce. Many predict that up to half of all crop scientists in industry and government jobs will
retire over the next decade. A recent report by Purdue University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National
Institute of Food and Agriculture predicts more than 54,000 agriculture-related job openings annually between 2010
and 2015.

12 • IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010


IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010 • 13
State of the Oldman River Watershed Report
BY RON MONTGOMERY

T
The Oldman watershed is a large diverse land and
water system in southern Alberta covering 23,000 sq
km in southwestern Alberta and 2,100 sq km in
Montana. It extends eastward from the forested
slopes of the Rocky Mountains, through rangelands
in the foothills, dryland and irrigated agricultural
plains, to the prairie grasslands. The Rocky
Mountains feed the headwaters of the Oldman
mainstream and its tributaries (Crowsnest and Castle
rivers, Willow and Pincher creeks), while the head-
waters of the Belly, Waterton and St. Mary rivers rise
in Montana.
The Oldman Watershed Council (OWC) is a provincially
designated Watershed Planning & Advisory Council (WPAC)
and a not-for-profit organization that works in partnership
with communities and residents to improve the Oldman River
Watershed. OWC members live or work within the Oldman
Basin. These members provide leadership and guidance in
watershed planning and management, water quality monitor-
ing and stewardship promotion.
The recently released State of the Watershed report is an
extensive document overseen by the talented members of the
State of the Watershed Team, who worked closely with AMEC
Earth and Environmental to prepare this report.
The watershed varies greatly, both in terms of the status of
Our mission is to maintain and
the land and water resources and impacts from human activi-
ties. In headwater sub-basins, water quantity is adequate, improve the Oldman River Watershed
quality is fair to good and riparian ecosystems are generally
healthy. However, as the Oldman River flows east, water qual- through partnerships, knowledge
ity deteriorates, available water supplies diminish, and there
are several issues of concern. Moving from west to east, forests and the implementation and integration
give way to grasslands and agricultural land uses.
The waters of the Oldman watershed are highly regulated
and extensively used. Water demands are generally low in
of sustainable watershed management
the upper reaches of streams in the watershed, but increase
to high levels in lower reaches of most streams. Generally, and land use practices.
the higher the actual use is, expressed as a percentage of nat-
ural flow, the greater the potential for water supply deficits.
However, several other factors come into play in a complex
water resource system. For instance, storage and flow regu- have made significant gains in water-use efficiency from the
lation can help to reduce deficits. Within the watershed, combined impacts of more effective on-farm application
there are three major onstream storage reservoirs, Oldman processes, district conveyance improvements, and reduced
River, Waterton and St. Mary reservoirs, plus offstream stor- return flows. Municipal use includes distributing water to
age, some of which is located outside of the Oldman homes, commercial and institutional establishments, and
watershed. industrial users in cities, towns and villages. It does not
Nine of Alberta’s 13 irrigation districts source waters from include water use in hamlets, rural subdivisions or industrial
the Oldman watershed. Some of the irrigated lands extend complexes in rural areas. Water use records indicate that
beyond the Oldman watershed. The irrigation districts in the municipal use is usually highest in the summer months, pri-
Oldman watershed (as well as in the Bow River watershed) marily due to outside watering of lawns, gardens and parks.

14 • IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010


Cont’d from page 14

Based on an evaluation of the combined ranking, the


health of each of the sub-basins have been tabulated. Overall,
the health of the Oldman watershed is rated as “fair.” The
Mountain Sub-basins are good, three sub-basins are ranked
fair, and the prairie sub-basins are ranked fair to poor.
In the foothills, southern tributaries, and mainstream sub-
basins and the prairie sub-basins ranked fair, land cover,
riparian health, land use, water allocations and surface water
nutrient levels are the indicators of most concern. Storage,
flow regulation and water diversions are the keys to meeting
current water use demands within the Oldman watershed. In
one instance (Little Bow River sub-basin), diversions from
outside the watershed are used to meet current demand.
Overall, the watershed requires management actions to main-
tain sustainability in light of potential expansion of demand
(within current allocations) and potentially lower streamflow
as a result of climate change.
To assess the state of the Oldman watershed, it was divided
using natural drainage patterns and water management histo-
ry. Four sub-basins – the Mountain, Foothills, Southern
Tributaries, and Prairie – were defined. A fifth – the Oldman
River Mainstem was also identified because it receives and is
influenced by water from the other Sub-basins.
In the same way performance measures show how well sys-
tems function over time, environmental indicators are used to
measure the state of the watershed. Indicators allow us to
understand the cause and effect relationship between human
activities on the landscape and the environmental response to
those activities. Indicators have three roles: to show trends in
environmental conditions over time, to inform managers and
the public about the condition of a watershed compared to
desired goals, and to help assess whether or not management Oldman River looking west from Hwy 845 Photo: C. Lacombe
actions are effective. As a result of the long history of moni-
toring water quantity and quality in the watershed, a large data
set on indicators is available. These data provide the opportu- This State of the Watershed report provides the foundation
nity to conduct an analytical assessment of indicators. for making future watershed management decisions. As stat-
For the Oldman watershed, three groups of indicators were ed in the preface: “Watershed level work seems overwhelming
chosen and assessed. The health of each of the sub-basins was because of the scale. However, there are ways to make water-
evaluated by integrating the rankings for terrestrial and ripar- shed scale work more manageable. The first step might be to
ian ecology, water quantity, and water quality indicators to recognize that we can manage cooperatively what we can’t
determine an overall value. A comparative assessment of the individually.” This “community” approach is what will contin-
rankings assigned to each of the Sub-basins was then used to ue to connect us as we move toward our desired future for the
assess the overall health of the Oldman watershed. Oldman watershed.
A number of recommendations and best management The report says, in general: “as residents of the Oldman
practices are included in the summary report, which you’re Watershed, we are responsible for the health of our watershed
encouraged to read in detail online. Water management in the and the quality of our water. Our mission is to maintain and
Oldman watershed must consider the impacts of both improve the Oldman River Watershed through partnerships,
droughts and floods. Early awareness of significant stream knowledge and the implementation and integration of sus-
flow and water quality trends is essential for preparing water tainable watershed management and land use practices.”
management plans and adaptation measures to minimize To review the entire report, visit www.oldmanbasin.org.
impacts on users and environmental resources. Learning to For further information, e-mail info@oldmanbasin.org or
survive on less water will be the challenge. call (403) 382-4239.

IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010 • 15


16 • IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010
IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010 • 17
A Farm Machine That’s Not Helping
BY LES BROST

I
If a picture of a machine represented global market forces and local weather conditions
today’s farmer, what would that machine often compel government intervention. Federal
and provincial governments open the subsidy/
be? Would it be a powerful tractor rolling
emergency program taps to inject enough money
effortlessly over the landscape? A 4 x 4 to keep the national FBM operational. Unlike the
pick-me-up towing a stock trailer across bank employee quietly replenishing the ABM’s,
the short-grass prairie? The supermarket politicians dispensing the dollars stage elaborate
coolers stocking our farm bounty? What photo-ops with “rescued” farmers and boast of
“saving a generation of farmers.”
machine comes to your mind that repre-
To borrow a phrase from my young nephew;
sents today’s farm sector? “As if!” Historically, manufacturers and suppliers
My choice of machine might be a wee bit dif- Les Brost price farm inputs at the maximum the market will
ferent than yours. It’s also a choice that saddens bear. Money flowing from government assistance
me, for I think an Automatic programs is siphoned up by
Banking Machine best represents quickly-elevated farm input costs.
today’s farmers. While that might The real financial status of the
sound like a very strange machine FBM remains mostly unchanged.
to represent a farmer, there are Government assistance to the
strong connections. FBM means that the taxpayer,
Both ABM’s and Canadian who is also a consumer, pays
farmers handle a lot of money. In twice for their food supply. Yet
the case of both ABM’s and too there are no farmer-to-consumer
many farmers, the money han- conversations concerning our
dling results in a zero-sum national food policy. That’s not
balance. With ABMs, the zero- surprising. Farmers, like ABM’s
sum balances are part of the are so much a part of the land-
design, while farming’s zero-sum scape many urban folks hardly
balances are the unintended con- notice their presence until they
sequences of a paternalistic and are unavailable.
dysfunctional system. Those are the reasons for my choice. They sadden me
The ABM design is straightforward. Money goes in and because I believe that farmers are capable of being much more
money goes out. A bank employee servicing the machine than FBMs serving everyone’s interests but their own. They
replenishes the money supply. are smart, strong, brave, and resilient people who work hard
Farmers’ income stream comes from different sources. to produce products vital to our national interests.
Most farmers sell to value-adders or processors, and those So why are farmers reduced to being “Banking Machines”
folks – along with the global marketplace – set the market for for some elements of Canadian society? Can’t they see them-
the prices paid for raw farm products. These buyers pay as lit- selves for what they are – smart, strong, brave, and resilient
tle as they can for farm commodities and will readily buy people producing a vital Canadian resource?
cheaper imports. Are farmers trapped in a narrative created by others? Do
The reality is that farmer’s share of the price of retail food alliances with suppliers, processors, and pandering politicians
products has dropped like a gopher-hunting hawk and that isolate them from mainstream Canadian society and perpetu-
drives the zero sum balance. According to U.S. Department of ate the “I’m just a farmer” mentality?
Agriculture data, in 2009, an American pig farmer received Will farmers escape the cold confines of the FBM and see
24.5% of the pig’s retail value; half of the 51% he received in their value as essential links in the food chain? Can farmers
1980. An American rancher received 42.5% of the retail value and consumers develop a new relationship that serves both
of a steer compared with 62% in 1980. their interests? Might adapting the business strategies used by
Those decreasing farm profits compel many farmers and their suppliers – basic business practices like matching supply
their families to take off-farm jobs in order to keep the FBM to demand – leverage their power?
(Farm Banking Machine) functioning. A biting bit of farmer These questions profoundly challenge the status quo, and
humor defines a diversified farm as one where “the wife” has will alarm some people. Yet shouldn’t farmers challenge the
a job in town. status quo? After all, the current state of farming is not a
The declining share of the consumer dollar, combined with pretty picture.

18 • IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010


Getting the Most from Nitrogen
BY RIC SWIHART

N
Nitrogen fertilizer applied at the optimum rate is application rates for 11 crops at four locations. Another
vital to capitalize on irrigation in southern Alberta, experiment gauged nitrogen use efficiency based on type of
nitrogen, late fall or early spring application while using both
says a provincial agronomist. banding and broadcast application methods.
Ross McKenzie of Lethbridge said irrigated crops must be He found that the amount of soil nitrate nitrogen is much
seeded at optimum rates and irrigated right. less than the total amount of nitrogen taken up by crops in
The goal of a four-year study was to show the benefit of the controlled treatment. The average soil nitrate level in the
optimum fertilizer application. “All crops tested showed ben- 30 fields was 46 pounds per acre. The average crop nitrogen
efits of nitrogen applications at varying rates.” take up by the plants was 138 pounds an acre.
McKenzie said that each increased fertilizer application “This is a substantial amount of nitrogen provided by the
rate showed increased production for most crops. soil versus the amount of nitrogen that comes from fertilizer
Using small plots under ideal management, McKenzie and to contribute to increased crop yield,” said McKenzie. “But it
his team found a production target of 140 bushels an acre is very difficult to predict the amount.” He said the informa-
achieveable for soft white wheat under good management. tion showed banding the nitrogen was more effective than
The target for tritical was 160 bushels. broadcast and incorporation. Late fall or spring is the best
Triticale silage usually produces about five per cent more time to apply it.
product than barley silage. McKenzie said the study was Fall banding the fertilizer conserves spring soil moisture,
essential because existing nitrogen recommendations had making spring side-banding at the time of seeding the best
become dated. option. McKenzie said the study will guide the understanding
Crop breeding has increased yield potential of most crops, of crop water use and create new recommendations for pro-
he said. Improved water use and management with pivot irri- ducers. Managing irrigation water in the top 40 to 50
gation also helps. Now farmers are told to seed crops earlier centimetres of the field to maintain soil moisture at 60 to 90
and to use higher seeding rates while incorporating improved per cent may be optimum.
weed management. He said the study showed that the best seeding time is mid-
And they can achieve improved disease control with seed to late- April for most crops for best yield and water use
treatments and foliar fungicide applications. efficiency. And farmers should use optimum seeding rates,
The project noted nitrogen fertilizer responses at various likely somewhat higher than most farmers have been using.

Controlled Traffic Farming Website and Message Board Launched


Controlled Traffic Farming Alberta (CTFA) recently launched a web site and web based message board/discussion
group on controlled traffic farming. Peter Gamache, Project Leader says “it is part of our plan to build a network
of people interested in controlled traffic. CTF is pretty new to Alberta so sharing ideas and questions among
growers, agronomists, equipment dealers and researchers will be important.”
The Controlled Traffic Farming Alberta Message Board is a forum to share your questions and experiences about
controlled traffic, guidance, inter-row seeding, equipment, agronomics and other issues and observations. During
the short time the message board has operated, some good discussions about inter-row seeding and disk seeders
started.
Visit http://www.controlledtrafficfarming.org/ and follow the link. Registration is required. The web site also has
some valuable links to controlled traffic farming web sites. If you are already practicing CTF or inter-row seeding
or are interested these new concepts, please call Peter Gamache at 780-720-4346 or email him at
pmgamache@gmail.com.
Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund (ACIDF) provides funding along with the Alberta Canola Producers
Commission, Alberta Pulse Growers, Alberta Barley Commission and the Alberta Winter Wheat Producers
Commission.

IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010 • 19


Southern Irrigators Aiding Migrating Birds
BUILDING ALTERNATIVE HABITAT FOR MIGRATING BIRDS
BY HELEN MCMENAMIN

F
Farmers in the southern US are working to provide
alternative habitat for migrating birds that usually
use the Gulf of Mexico as a vital part of their migra-
tions. They’re building artificial lakes, wetlands and
shorelines, growing food crops for birds and renew-
ing wetlands.
About a billion birds fly to the Gulf of Mexico or stop there
to feed on their migrations to and from their nesting grounds.
The region is the centre of the bird migration system for the
western hemisphere. Some stay there to feed for the entire
winter, others just use it as a rest station and fly on.
The US Natural Resources Conservation Service has had
way more applications than it could fund during a 5-week sign-
Black-necked Stilt Photo: Dr. Steve Dinsmore, Iowa State University
up period for its Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative. The program
includes cash incentives that depend on the work and inputs
needed, but are likely relatively low for 3-year commitment.
The goal is to develop high quality habitat very quickly to The goal is to develop high quality
keep birds away from the oil-damaged coastal marshes. If the
water, food and cover are good enough, these areas could habitat very quickly to keep birds away
encourage migrating birds to stay inland for the winter instead
of moving down to the Gulf. Other birds, particularly those from the oil-damaged coastal marshes.
that winter in Central and South America, will likely continue
their migration patterns.
Response to the program has been huge. Groups such as “Further south rice land and fish farms are important says
Ducks Unlimited, hunting and other wildlife associations Childers. ”But, in this area, wetlands are our main focus.
have partnered in the effort. Even though cash incentives are “NRCS already controls many of them under our wildlife
relatively small – under $20 an acre to flood fields to specific habitat program, but a lot of them have deteriorated over the
depths at specific times for 3 years, up to $30 for cultivating, years, mainly from water supply pipes being blocked by beaver
more to seed food crops for birds, many farmers have joined dams or something. We’re getting those cleared to renew the
the initiative. NRCS aimed for 100,000 to 150,000 acres of wetlands.” (The Wildlife Habitat Program pays landowners for
habitat in eight states. In Louisiana alone, almost 2,000 farm- a perpetual conservation easement that gives NRCS most of
ers applied to commit over 425,000 acres to the initiative. the surface rights to areas of special value to wildlife)
Enthusiasm in other states has been similar. Farmers in the bird habitat program have to commit to
“The state matched our funds so we had about $6 million, their land uses for 3 years, so the biologists know when some
but we could have spent $10 million,” says Nelson Childers of flooded land will be dried out for seeding. Seeding is early in
the Arkansas office of the NRCS. Although Arkansas is per- the South, but crawfish and catfish farms offer rich feeding for
haps 10 hours drive from the Gulf, it is on the western birds, particularly snails that help birds build calcium reserves
hemisphere bird migration flyway for neo-tropical birds as for nesting and egg-laying. Mudflats can support huge num-
well as those flying longer distances. Childers expects millions bers of midge larvae and other invertebrates. Also, renewed
of birds to stop in the state. wetlands will offer year-round wildlife habitat.
The role of farmland in the program is as habitat for shore- “We’re really hoping for very good nesting success next
birds and waterfowl. By flooding land to an average depth of spring,” says Childers. “We need lots of undisturbed nesting
two inches, farmers will create combinations of shallow water sites.”
and mudflats for wading birds. Rice farmers will flood fields Map <http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/news/wrp_mapweb2.jpg>
about 10 inches deep after harvest for diving ducks. Catfish
and crawfish producers will keep water in place rather than Bird images kildeer and piping plover
<http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/news/nrcs_migratory_birds4.html>
releasing it for part of the year. In some areas, farmers will
grow Japanese millet as a fast maturing food and cover and Farmers are cultivating areas to make habitat for piping
others will cultivate artificial shorelines for shorebirds like plovers and other birds that feed along apparently barren
piping plovers. shores such as those of saline sloughs.

20 • IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010


Division of C&H Irrigation Ltd. Division of C&H Irrigation Ltd. Medicine Hat, Alberta Brooks, Alberta
Lethbridge, Alberta 403-328-9999 Taber, Alberta 403-223-1170 403-526-3294 403-362-5133
http://oliver.valleydealers.com http://oliver.valleydealers.com http://candh.valleydealers.com http://academy.valleydealers.com

IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010 • 21


Family Memories of Fishing the ID Waters
FOND FAMILY MEMORIES
BY RON MONTGOMERY

W
We moved to Lethbridge in 1977 from northern
Alberta. Being a rather outdoorsy family, we weren’t
certain what to expect in terms of hunting and fishing
opportunities. In fact on first impression the land-
scape looked downright depressing to a “bush” guy.
But my reading up on southern Alberta indicated it
was definitely not barren of fish and wildlife. And
Boys fishing for perch, circa 1980’s Photo: R. Montgomery
that was soon proven accurate.
The irrigation infrastructure was intriguing. Canals, laterals simultaneously plugged into the ground and an electrical out-
and reservoirs seemed to be everywhere. On clear days you let. Theory being that the crawlers would be driven out of their
could see mountains to the west. Waterfowl and upland game holes onto the lawn where they could be picked up at leisure
birds thrived on this irrigation landscape. Pheasant hunting without flashlights. Theoretically.
was a novelty we quickly came to embrace. Fishing was diverse When it appeared the walleye were tired of chowing down
and opportunistic whether enjoyed on the water or through ice on MMCs (Monty’s Massive Crawlers), we figured they might
in wintertime. take a leech. Being from farming backgrounds in Saskatchewan
We quite enjoy northern pike (or jackfish as we tended to originally, we were still rather independent blighters. Thusly we
call them) as table fare especially in the colder months. They’re would harvest our own leeches. A perforated can of luncheon
also a fine sports fish and put up a good fight on the end of a meat attached to a length of strong twine and tossed into the
line. Our young boys often had quite a job landing one of these rich waters of Stirling Lake (now known as Michelson’s Marsh)
thrashing and surprisingly strong fish whether angling from usually yielded a fine catch of yummy leeches.
shore or in our boat. Sherburne Reservoir was a favorite for perch fishing. The
A favorite excursion of ours was a day on Chin Reservoir boys quite enjoyed reeling in those tasty little fish from their
where we’d pack along a few cold drinks plus a cooking grate dingy. My job was to simply fillet. “Dear-at-Heart” (my good
and other goodies. Inevitably we’d land a pike or two by noon spouse Vi) kept all of us, including the fisher-kids, amply fed
and find a cozy spot on shore to park the boat, light a small fire and watered. Walleye was often a pleasant by-product of our
on a sandy area and grill the filleted pike. The boys would find efforts there.
a spot to gallivant about in the water along with our equally When Keho Reservoir still had the County Park and camp-
enthusiastic Lab dog until all were called to lunch. site, we used to camp there while I’d commute back and forth
It was here that our then 12-year old son Cory caught a to work. In the evenings, we’d generally catch a few pike for
nice 13-pound pike that he had mounted by a local taxider- supper or for freezing. Our Lab was one of those dogs that liked
mist using his own paper route saved money. That fish mount to play a game whereby he’d pull on a rope that you also held.
still proudly graces his home in Portland, Oregon and brings As such, he soon took to pulling us and the boat into shore if
back fond memories, which he likes to recount. For it was you simply tossed the free end of your boat tie-rope close to
caught during one of our famous southern Alberta “gentle shore. It was a quite a sight as he’d jump into the water and
prairie breezes” that made steering our 14-foot aluminium strain mightily responding to our encouraging words of “pull!”
boat near impossible. We made a couple of passes under the During the winter we could often be found at Keho
highway bridge seeking some refuge from the waves before he Reservoir. A number of holes would be dug through the ice, a
landed his trophy. fire started and when the kids would get bored, they’d strap on
Chin Reservoir was also one of our favorite walleye spots. their skates. Thankfully, I was much younger then and could
Our home in Lethbridge had a lawn that was “blessed” with an still handle a hand-powered ice auger. This same auger has
abundant supply of hefty night crawlers. The fact they were a now been passed onto our son in Cochrane, Alberta. We
nuisance was compensated for by the walleye’s fondness for bought a gas-powered auger. But now seldom ice-fish. Miss
these scrumptious wigglers. We pulled out all the stops when the kid-factor.
trying to lay in a supply of night crawlers. Many a late night we’d In 1998, we relocated from Lethbridge to the Crowsnest
be out on the lawn in darkness with flashlights or headlights Pass. It’s great fishing here too. And some irrigation reservoirs
sneaking around trying to grab a marauding crawler before it aren’t all that far a drive. However we do miss those old favorite
receded back into its hole. Our neigbours were appreciably haunts. Fortunately, the memories of spending time on those
polite - or too spooked to inquire further of our antics. waters with our young family are still fresh in my mind. Much
At one point we even ordered a gizmo (still have it – occu- like a freshly caught perch fillet sizzling in the frying pan whilst
pies a forgotten spot somewhere in the shed) that you reclining on the shore of Sherburne Reservoir.

22 • IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010


New List has 49 Prohibited Noxious Weeds
BY DONNA TROTTIER

A
Alberta’s agricultural land and natural spaces will
benefit from enhanced protection with the new
Weed Control Act and regulation, which came into
effect June 16.
“New legislation replaces the old Act and its regulations
and provides a better approach to protecting Alberta land
from invasive plant species,” explains Jim Broatch, pest man- A beautiful flower but looks can be
agement specialist with Alberta Agriculture. deceiving. This Himalayan Balsam is a
One of the big changes in the new Act is an expanded list Prohibited Noxious weed in Alberta.
of invasive plant species. “The expanded list strengthens the Photo: Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

ability of the province and municipalities to work with the


Canada Thistle, a weed commonly
agriculture industry and other Albertans to increase vigilance
found in Alberta listed in the Noxious
in keeping weeds out of Alberta,” states Broatch. weed category
The new regulations now list weeds in two categories, Photo: Alberta Invasive Plants Council
Prohibited Noxious weeds and Noxious weeds. Prohibited
Noxious weeds are species that are not established in Alberta, weed must be controlled. In the sliding scale program, the def-
but have demonstrated detrimental effects in other provinces inition of control is much more open and it is up to the weed
or states. Broatch explained that the objective of identifying inspectors and the municipalities to define acceptable means
these 46 Prohibited Noxious weeds is to prevent them from of controlling weeds and acceptable control levels.
becoming established in the province. The Weed Control Act is not just for agricultural areas and
Noxious weeds are species that are widely spread in various has been revised to protect natural areas and riparian areas
areas of the province, but can still pose a significant econom- from the detrimental effects of invasive weeds displacing the
ic hardship once established. Controlling the spread of plants that are vital to functioning healthy ecosystems. More
Noxious weeds is critical to protecting areas that are not value has been placed on these natural areas sparking interest
infested. There are 29 weeds listed in the regulations in the in protecting them from Prohibited and Noxious weeds.
Noxious weed category. Rules regarding seed cleaning facility inspections and
The old legislation had a category called “nuisance” weeds licensing have been updated in the new legislation to better
that included other common plants such as dandelions. “The reflect current activity in the seed cleaning sector. The Act also
nuisance category has been removed,” Broatch explains, includes improved guidelines on how enforcement and the
“because the weeds in that category are so widespread that on appeal process on fines for weed control infractions are car-
a provincial level they are out of control. Individual land and ried out.
homeowners are responsible for managing nuisance weeds as For more information on the Weed Control Act, the asso-
they see fit.” ciated regulation and to view the expanded list of Prohibited
“There is a sliding scale of weed control programs among Noxious and Noxious weed species, visit the Alberta
the municipalities in the province,” Broatch describes. Agriculture and Rural Development website at www.agricul-
Though the legislation defines the weeds in each category, ture.alberta.ca.
municipalities may elevate a plant from the Noxious category
to Prohibited Noxious category through a bylaw.
Taber Irrigation District
Municipalities are however not permitted to lower any weed Specialty Crop
from the Prohibited category unless they elevated that weed Country
there themselves. Municipalities may also, through bylaw, add
invasive weeds that are not included in the legislation, to the
TID (Established in 1915)
Noxious category if they want to ramp up control of that spe-
Taber is the centre of specialty crop production and value added
cific weed in their municipality. processing in Alberta including sugar beets, hay, potatoes, corn
If a Prohibited Noxious weed is identified on a piece of and many other vegetable crops.
land, the Act specifies that the weed must be destroyed,
4420 - 44 Street, Taber, Alberta T1G 2J6
defined as: “to kill all growing parts or to render reproductive
Telephone: (403) 223-2148 • Fax: (403) 223-2924
mechanisms non-viable.” “There is no gray zone with Email: tid@telusplanet.net
Prohibited Noxious weeds. According to legislation, if they are
found they must be destroyed,” explains Broatch. If Noxious TABER IRRIGATION DISTRICT
Serving over 82,000 acres and 750 water users in the Taber area
weeds are identified on a piece of land, the Act states that the

IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010 • 23


New Water Ethic Needed in Canada
BY DONNA TROTTIER

T
The myth that Canada has a limitless water supply Sandford noted this could benefit Canada. “Some experts have
must be dispelled as a step towards dealing with predicted that as a result of that trade agriculture will ulti-
mately become more important to the economy of Canada
Canada’s potential water crisis. Bob Sandford, chair
than oil and gas.”
of the Canadian Partnership Initiative in support of Sandford noted other water issues that will need addressing
the United Nations “Water for Life” Decade, such as the oilsands contamination threat and unresolved
addressed a group of water stewards at the 8th Aboriginal water rights issues. Many treaties outline the right
Annual Stewards in Motion Conference held in to both water quality and water quantity and therefore the
“first-in-time first-in-right” water rules may be under siege as
Sylvan Lake in June. Sandford shared optimism that the treaty may overrule this.
Canada can avoid many of the water problems that With the public starting to take note of water issues
are emerging so widely elsewhere in the world, if we Sandford recommends using this knowledge and interest to
act wisely now. advance policy reform and resource management. He suggests
that policy reform should include a revitalization of the cur-
“We need to dispel water myths and start working with
rent system with harmonization of federal, provincial and
water truths,” explains Sandford. MYTH: Canadians are excel-
municipal management of our water resources. This will
lent water managers. TRUTH: In fact, we are among the
require improved monitoring, forecasting and prediction
world’s greatest water wasters and polluters. We lack a set of
capacity tied to better enforcement of existing laws. It will also
principles and guidelines that stop us from chipping away at
require new regulations that protect water quality and recog-
natural systems until there is nothing left of their life-sustain-
nize nature’s need for water. Secondly, reformed policy could
ing functions. MYTH: There is an abundance of water in
borrow from the examples of programs that have been suc-
Canada. TRUTH: We don’t have as much water as we think in cessful in helping other nations in managing their water such
Canada, with only 6.5% of the world’s renewable water as the European Water Framework Directive. In that frame-
resources. Much of our water is in the north, a great distance work, water quality standards and parameters of aquatic
from where the majority of the population lives. Careful, ecosystem health are defined by the European Union and then
thoughtful management of this limited resource is imperative. individual nations are charged with meeting those standards.
MYTH: If we manage the water resources properly, everyone Sandford suggests, “We may even wish to apply it on a conti-
will be happy. TRUTH: Difficult water allocation decisions will nental basis which means working as a team again with our
be made in the future that will leave some water users high and American neighbours.” A third avenue of reform might allow
dry. Consensus will not be achievable on all water issues. regions to reform water policy on a large scale watershed basis.
Sandford suggests that contributions to a potential conflict The Western Water Stewardship Council, for example, aims to
over water include three global trends – population growth, resolve potential conflicts in the management of all the river
growing competition between cities and agriculture for both systems that have their origins in Canada’s western mountains.
land and water, and our growing knowledge of how much There is urgency in addressing the issues and Sandford
water nature needs. We have a new understanding of how dif- believes that all of the areas of potential dispute can be resolved
ferent kinds of ecosystems generate, capture, purify and release through patient, mutually respectful collaboration informed
water for us and we have begun to see the value of this. by good will and
“Because of the combination of these three trends, we are sound science.
converging globally on some terrifying trade-offs,” warns Sandford explains,
Sandford. For example, if you give agriculture the water it “Unlike so many
needs to keep feeding growing populations, there won’t be other places in the
enough water to allow nature to sustain itself. If you choose to world, Canada still
sustain nature, feeding the world will be a challenge. “Higher has room to move in
levels of government will have to assert leadership on impor- terms of how we man-
tant water matters,” states Sandford. age our water
In the future, virtual water export, meaning water embod- resources. We should
ied in food and exported, will make Canadian agriculture even get moving while we
more important to the world. Models predict by 2050 some 53 still have room, create
per cent of the world’s population will be facing one form or a new way of thinking
another of water scarcity. Countries with inadequate water about water and cre-
supply will have to import water virtually as food, doubling the ate a new Canadian
virtual water trade internationally between now and 2050. water ethic.” Bob Stanford Photo: Rachel Boekel

24 • IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010


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IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010 • 25


Trees Take Priority for Water
TREES TAKE PRIORITY AS IRRIGATORS IDLE PUMPS & SPRINKLERS
BY HELEN MCMENAMIN

E
Environmental biologists and the oper-
ator of reservoirs in southern Alberta
are taking advantage of this year’s wet
weather to manage water for the envi-
ronment, particularly to renew
cottonwoods along riverbanks.
Alberta Environment water operator,
Terrence Lazarus, is always balancing the
demand for water from irrigators and water
licenses that require a certain amount of water
flows in the river and care of the riparian envi-
ronment along with managing the reservoirs. Oldman tree Photo: C. Lacombe

“Our primary business is water storage for irrigation,” he


says. “But, we also provide water for industry, municipalities,
recreation – that’s huge, and we try and mitigate the impact of even when water levels are at bank-full as they’ve been much
damming the rivers on the downstream environment. And, of of this year, flows are only about 60% of natural high flows.
course, we keep some capacity in reserve for flood control.” The high flows, such as those of this year mobilize the
Lazarus’ year starts in October, when he wants winter lev- riverbed, sweeping away silt, rainbow trout eggs and fry from
els in the reservoirs, around 60% so there’s room for all the gravel beds, moving the silt downstream, and renewing the
snowmelt that drains in, but enough water that with normal river.
spring rains they’ll be full by the end of June when irrigation “We displace some fish this year,” says Bryski. “But, we
demand really starts. often see spectacular spawning success the spring following a
“Snowpack is our guaranteed water supply, but the basins high water year. A flood is destructive, sweeping away some
that feed our reservoirs are too small to cause flooding,” he fish and invertebrate habitats. But, it’s also creative, providing
says. “But, we can have problems if we get heavy spring rains new opportunities for fish and other creatures.”
– the dams weren’t built for flood control – the worst thing an For some fish, high water can cover obstacles or wash away
operator can do is overfill the reservoir. Even in flood condi- beaver dams that block their access to some parts of the river
tions though, we release less water than comes in so we take systems. Higher water flows give fish cooler water and more
the peak off river flows. In the 1995 flood we were able to hold space to live, a generally easier life.
back 25% of peak flows.” “It’s not our job to optimize conditions for brown trout or
In a long drought, irrigation reservoirs in southern Alberta any other species,” says Bryski. “We just to try keep opportu-
can support normal use for about 3 years. nities for fish as natural as possible. Pike is the top predator in
Figuring the right amount of water to release into the river the river environment so it reflects the health of the ecosystem
is never easy. Lazarus calls it “partly chicken bones and partly and lets us know how we’re doing.”
science.” He also has to manage water needs of the irrigation The main focus of the biologists this year has been cotton-
districts against those of recreational users and the biologists’ woods. These trees are the keystone species of prairie river
and license requirements for river flows. valleys, and like the keystone in an arch, the trees are crucial
Spring spawning fish like rainbow trout need clean gravel to all the species in the environment.
on a rocky bottom with moderate flows. Once the fish biolo- “Without cottonwoods, our river banks would revert to
gist, Mike Bryski, sees the fish spawning, he wants Lazarus to prairie,” says John Mahoney, Alberta Environment senior biol-
keep river flows steady at that level through April and May to ogist. “The cottonwoods maintain the riparian habitat that
allow the fry to hatch and start their lives. Once fall spawners supports a huge amount of wildlife – songbirds, owls, frogs and
like brown trout lay their eggs, they need fairly steady flows other amphibians. At least 80% of prairie bird species depend
with no sudden rises that could sweep their eggs away. on riparian forest at least some of the time and many aquatic
There are lots of other fish in the river system from little invertebrates, including mosquitoes, that are important food for
minnows and sculpins to whitefish, walleye, burbot and fish spend at least one phase of their life cycle on the floodplain.”
even lake sturgeon. Biologists don’t really know how water We have lots of cottonwood trees in our river valleys, but
management affects most of them – people tend to study many of them have been there a long time, so biologists want
sport fish needs first. to ensure there are new generations of trees to replace the old
With plenty of water available, the biologists aimed to trees when they die – cottonwoods generally have a lifespan of
mimic the naturally varied flows of a free-running river. But, about 100 years.

26 • IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010


Cont’d from page 26
South Saskatchewan Regional Plan
The Government of Alberta posted the information and input
The cottonwoods maintain the riparian habitat summaries from sessions last November/December on the
Land-use Framework and the South Saskatchewan Regional
that supports a huge amount of wildlife Plan
You can find the summaries by visiting
The trees shed tiny seeds in spring and those that land on http://www.landuse.alberta.ca/RegionalPlans/
bare moist ground, silt or in a sandy crevice of a gravel area in SouthSaskatchewan/Default.aspx
full sun can germinate. Once the seedling has 4 to 6 leaves, its Reports
roots grow at up to 8cm per day, but 2cm a day is more usual, Phase 1 Information and Input Session Summaries
they grow as fast as they need to follow the water table as it SSRP Public Information and Input Sessions –
drops. High growth rates severely stress the seedlings and they Summary of Public Input – July 2010 (12 pages)
can’t usually maintain this pace of growth for very long. SSRP Public Information and Input Sessions –
High water flows keep the groundwater on the floodplain Summary of Stakeholder Input – July 2010 (34 pages)
high, so the tree seedlings have a chance to survive their first
South Saskatchewan Regional Plan Workbook Results –
precarious year. Seedling stands can be very dense with as
July 2010 (78 pages)
many as 1,000 plants per square meter, but they quickly thin
out, the survivors that develop into mature trees need about Profile of the South Saskatchewan Region – Nov 2009
(95 pages)
100 square meters each.
This year’s wet weather may well be the foundation of the Terms of Reference for Development of the South
highest diversity of wildlife in southern Alberta for unborn Saskatchewan Region – Nov 2009 (30 pages)
generations to enjoy in 50 or 100 years.

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IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010 • 27


Savor Sweet Summer Spots
BY RON MCMULLIN, Executive Director, Alberta Irrigation Projects Association

W
When you enjoy “a day at the lake”
boating, fishing, or on the beach
anywhere south and east of Calgary,
you are really enjoying “a day at the
reservoir.“ The vast majority of
water-based recreation east of the
foothills in southern Alberta is
dependent on Alberta’s irrigation
system.
Recently, I was at Crawling Valley
Reservoir near Bassano for the first time
and was quite surprised to see so many
boats on the lake and at the boat dock in the
small, but attractive, constructed harbour.
Fishing rods were set with bells to alert their
owners when they should pay more atten-
tion to the fish on the other end of the line
than to the stories their fishing buddy was
telling. Kids were swimming, and splashing More ‘Day at the reservoir’ enthusiasts
each other, and others were dangling a line hoping to catch a at Little Bow Photo: C. Lacombe
fish themselves.
As I looked over the campground, two families on bikes Park Lake, Kinbrook Island, and Little Bow, all Provincial
whizzed by, a puppy with an inquisitive look came up non- Parks on irrigation reservoirs, boast over 450 campsites.
chalantly seeking some attention, and the smell of barbeques Twent y-two other developed campgrounds or day-use areas
and their sizzling contents made me wish I was invited for exist on the 89 water bodies owned by irrigation districts or
supper. My wife sat in the shade of an accommodating tree Alberta Environment. AIPA is developing a booklet for distri-
reading a book, while I checked out this oasis that the Eastern bution in 2011 that describes these campgrounds and their
Irrigation District had constructed. We left later in the locations. Counties, towns, villages, private associations, and
evening just as the sunset began to fill the western sky with its businesses, as well as Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation
flaming orange and reds, and campers gathered to share the and the irrigation districts, operate these recreational facilities
warmth and congeniality of their campfires. There’s just some- to increase the quality of life in this region. Some reservoirs or
thing about sitting around the flickering flames of a campfire water bodies fed by irrigation water are not widely recognized
in the evening, enjoying the relaxing, mesmerizing, dancing as such, for example, Henderson Lake, Payne Lake, Nicholas
flames. There’s just something about being by a lake having a Sheran Pond, Chestermere Lake, and Lake Newell . You can
lazy day without phone calls or cares. enter AIPA’s “Fishing Derby” where you can pick out irriga-
A recreation study done by AIPA in the past found that the tion-based water bodies from a list out of the Alberta
average distance people travelled to get to Crawling Valley was Sportfishing Guide. The five winners with the most correct
224 km; those traveling to Kinbrook Park drove on average answers get a $100 gift certificate, so hurry and visit
237 km, while reservoirs like Stafford Lake drew more local www.aipa.org before the contest closes September 14.
people with an average travelling distance of only 27 km. Water and tourism go hand in hand. Alberta Tourism
Calgary residents made up 81% of the campers at Crawling Parks and Recreation recently joined forces with AIPA to fund
Valley, 54% of the people visiting 40 Mile Coulee were from a study on the feasibility of novel recreational uses for the irri-
Medicine Hat, and 71% of the people camping and boating at gation system. Options like a windsurfing park, a network of
St. Mary Reservoir were from Lethbridge. These reservoirs bird watching platforms among the 82,000 acres of irrigation-
meet the needs of locals for recreation as well as those willing created wetlands, and a kayaking course in a canal stretch
to travel some distance to enjoy the wonders of water. About where once there were drop structures are some of the ideas
¼ of recreationists come to fish, another ¼ come to boat, for new ways to enjoy the irrigation-based recreation potential
water ski, windsurf or jet ski, another ¼ are just out to enjoy of southern Alberta. While you wait for these and other ideas
the out of doors and visit, about 15 per cent come to go swim- to change from dreams to reality, you can do your own dream-
ming, and the rest come to observe wildlife or other purposes. ing as you enjoy your ”day at the reservoir.”

28 • IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010


IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010 • 29
Wetlands Mitigation/Compensation in Alberta
BY RON MONTGOMERY

W
Wetlands play an undisputedly valuable role in the Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) has a long history con-
everyday lives of all Albertans. As such, the Alberta serving wetlands in Alberta. As part of their conservation
goals, they work with landowners to identify wetland restora-
Government currently has legislation and policy in
tion opportunities and develop appropriate incentives for
place to help manage wetland disturbances. The reg- those landowners to consider mutually acceptable restoration
ulatory compensation process and all resultant activities. Their involvement in the mitigation process is sim-
decisions are administered through Alberta ply that of a wetland restoration agent (WRA).
Environment (AENV). Other regulatory requirements DUC has no regulatory authority and only becomes
involved in the mitigation process at the invitation of the
may be required under the Municipal Government Water Act applicant. They’ve been involved in restoring wet-
Act and/or the Public Lands Act. lands through the mitigation process since 2004. Since that
Alberta’s Water Act requires that an approval be obtained time, and through this compensation process, DUC has
before undertaking an activity in a wetland. Under the Act, an restored more than 670 hectares of wetland habitat to com-
activity includes the process in which, but is not limited to, a pensate for the loss of more than 220 hectares through the
wetland being disturbed, altered, infilled or drained. approvals process (representing the suggested ratio of a 3:1
In addition, Alberta’s Wetland Policy – Wetland gain/loss, if within the same watershed).
Management in the Settled Area of Alberta: An Interim Policy Currently, DUC is the main WRA in Alberta. As demand
provides guidance to conserve wetlands in their natural state, for this service grows, other agents, such as municipalities,
to mitigate the degradation or loss of wetland benefits and to private consultants and irrigation districts could become
enhance, restore or create wetlands in areas where they have established WRA’s. DUC welcomes the development of more
been depleted or degraded. WRA’s in Alberta and will provide advice and support to help
Wetland mitigation is a process implemented by the facilitate this.
Government of Alberta to reduce the loss of wetland area. Applicants that are required to provide compensation to
Mitigation is regulated under Alberta’s Water Act, and further fulfill their mitigation requirements have the option entering
guided by Alberta’s Provincial Wetland Restoration/ into agreement with the WRA to deliver the restoration with-
Compensation Guide (2007). in protocols dictated by Alberta’s Provincial Wetland
When an individual applies for approval to conduct activi- Restoration/Compensation Guide (2007). DUC provided a
ties governed under the Water Act, the proposed project and summary report to AENV annually outlining the wetland
its potential impacts on existing wetlands must be considered restoration projects completed or partially completed associ-
in the following priority order: ated with the WA wetland restoration/compensation process
1. Avoiding impacts to the wetland (where possible, pro- DUC’s restoration efforts mainly focus on NAWMP (North
ponents of a development should first seek options that American Waterfowl Management Plan) identified areas
avoid any loss or degradation of wetlands.) located throughout the province. NAWMP initiatives will help
2. Minimizing impacts (if the activity cannot avoid provide guidance on where best to concentrate restoration
efforts. This will allow DUC to focus their works on a land-
impacting a wetland, the next preferred option is to take
scape level where restoring ecological function has the
steps to minimize the degree of loss or degradation)
greatest impact on waterfowl populations. These areas are
3. Compensating for impacts that cannot be avoided or strategically located outside urbanization areas to insure that
minimized. restoration projects are not lost to development in the future.
Since it is not always possible to avoid or minimize wetland Craig Bishop, Mitigation Services Coordinator for DUC
impacts, compensation may be required to offset the wetland adds, “Ultimately, an increase in wetland area in the settled
damage the project is expected to cause. Compensation can areas of Alberta can only happen if wetlands become an asset
include: to private landowners. The compensation component of the
1. Restoration of other wetlands, which have been previ- mitigation process provides a great opportunity to offer con-
ously degraded. servation solutions benefiting both the respective
2. Construction of wetlands where they did not exist pre- landowners and Albertans in general. Monies received from
viously this process that aren’t fully expended in any given year are
3. Enhancement of existing wetlands held in reserve by DUC expressly intended for these mitiga-
In order to maintain the overall health of a negatively tion related projects.”
affected watershed, the mitigation process addresses wetlands For further information on DUC’s involvement in Alberta’s
loss (& their respective services) by realizing a gain in these wetlands mitigation process call toll free 1-866-301-DUCK
services where compensatory restoration occurs. (3825) or e-mail Craig at c_bishop@ducks

30 • IRRIGATING ALBERTA – Fall 2010


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