Saskatchewan approves largest multi-farm drainage plan


Saskatchewan’s provincial Water Security Agency has signed off on what it describes as the largest single agricultural drainage project in the province’s history, with more projects of a similar scale to come.

The province announced Thursday it has issued a single approval for 73 landowners in the province’s southeast to set up an “organized and responsibly managed drainage network” covering over 18,000 acres.

The WSA said it’s now working with “hundreds” of other landowners on another 12 organized drainage projects, covering more than 160,000 acres.

The WSA said it took a “number of new approaches” in approving the Dry Lake Project in the watershed for Gooseberry Lake, about 100 km north of Estevan.

A joint application was used for land control, the WSA said, where legal easements on 113 quarter sections, or “hundreds” of neighbour-to-neighbour land control agreements, would otherwise have been required.

“This single project is equal to roughly one year of drainage approvals issued in southeast Saskatchewan which is remarkable progress,” Scott Moe, the minister responsible for the WSA, said in a release.

“While large-scale organized drainage projects have been built before, this project is unique in that it includes all existing and future drainage works,” the WSA said on its website. “There has never been a project of this size in our province and to the best of our knowledge across the country.”

Approval to construct, approval to operate and aquatic habitat protection permits were all issued from one application, at one time, with one set of conditions, the WSA said.

The Upper Souris Watershed Association acted as the “qualified person” on the application, to help producers with the application process, “significantly” reducing paperwork for farmers, the province said.

Applications prepared by a “qualified person” will require a lower level of review at the WSA and will therefore usually receive a faster approval, the agency said. Certification requirements for “qualified persons” will vary by “project type, risk and complexity.”

Landowners in the Dry Lake Project now have land control and security for their drainage works, the province said.

Thirty gated structures have been set up for “controlled release” of flows, which the WSA said will throttle spring runoff to the equivalent of a one-in-two-year flow rate.

Flow controls for existing drainage will ensure downstream landowners and communities don’t see increased flooding, the WSA said.

The Dry Lake Project also restored 34 acres of wetlands on existing drainage, and 21 acres of wetland retention on new drainage, the WSA said, representing a “very substantial contribution made by agricultural producers in support of wetland habitat conservation.” — Network

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