Southern Sask. irrigation fees to rise: CBC

Farmers and ranchers using a federally-maintained system to irrigate about 20,000 acres in southern Saskatchewan may soon find themselves on the hook for more of its maintenance costs, CBC reports.

The broadcaster said Tuesday that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, which maintains 33 dam structures in the province’s south, as well as five irrigation systems carrying water from them, plans to move to a fee model based on cost recovery.

CBC quoted Brian Martens, a cattle producer at Rush Lake, about 30 km east of Swift Current, as saying he’s been told the federal government will continue to pay for the dams’ upkeep but charge more for the irrigation system.

CBC also quoted project manager Rob Wiebe of AAFC as saying the farmers and ranchers using the water are paying just over 10 per cent of the actual costs of irrigation service delivery. AAFC currently collects $8.50 per irrigated acre per year from about 250 producers in all, CBC said.

According to Martens, system users have not been told how much more of the costs the government plans to recover each year, but expect their fees to rise four- or fivefold.

CBC said AAFC plans to increase the fees incrementally, reaching full cost recovery by 2017.

Maintaining the irrigation system currently costs AAFC about $80 per acre per year, CBC quoted government officials as saying.

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