Sask. to back rural power, roads, pest control

Cost-share power line relocations, pest control rebates and an expanded municipal roads program are among the pledges the province has made this week to rural Saskatchewan residents.

Premier Brad Wall on Wednesday announced funds to revive, renew or enhance several rural programs, during a presentation to the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities in Saskatoon.

The rural programming Wall announced Wednesday includes:

  • a rebuild of Crown utility SaskPower’s overhead rural electrical power lines, taking them out of farmers’ fields and moving them into road allowances, with construction expected to start in 2010;
  • reinstatement of the Farmyard Line Relocation Program, a cost-sharing deal in which the province will pay 75 per cent of the cost to place overhead lines underground, and the customer will pay the remaining 25 per cent, to a maximum of $2,000;
  • extension of the gopher control rebate program in which farmers, ranchers, RMs and First Nations can get back up to 50 per cent of the costs of controlling gophers in 2009, with the province contributing $2.93 million for the rebate as part of a $4 million “comprehensive pest control program;”
  • also under the new pest control program, a $60,000 increase in funding to $600,000 for a fieldworker program to support for control of pests and diseases including Dutch elm, hantavirus, perennial weeds, and rats;
  • a further $125,000 in funding for products to control black flies, which harm livestock in northern Saskatchewan;
  • a $50,000 increase to $350,000 for the provincial livestock predation program in 2009-10, hiring hunters and trappers to control wild boars and coyotes, also now part of the new pest control program; and
  • expansion of the province’s Municipal Roads Programs.

Previously, the province said Wednesday, the Municipal Bridges, Heavy Haul, Roads to Resources and Clearing the Path programs shared $20 million in funding, but that will be “significantly enhanced” in the upcoming budget.

In the 2009-10 budget year, the province said, all of those programs will be moved under the administration of the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure.

Wall’s release said the province “will rely on SARM to make key decisions” on how the municipal roads cash is distributed.

Except for Clearing The Path, the province said, the roads programs until now had been “ad hoc, with overlapping priorities, and region- and industry-specific in nature.”

The new, overarching roads program is expected to focus on
“better alignment of the provincial highway network and municipal road network,” the “efficient movement of goods across the province” and “efficient and seamless transportation connections to enhance the competitiveness of rural industries by providing better access to local, national and international markets.”

Wall, speaking to the RM councilors in Saskatoon, also reiterated a previous pledge to “achieve a fairer balance for education funding and reduce the education portion of the property tax.”

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