By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
A collaborative framework agreement between Lethbridge County, St. Mary River Irrigation District (SMRID) and the Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District (LNID) has been renewed until 2025 following the success of the previous term.
In 2022, the SMRID and former Taber Irrigation District (TID) were amalgamated, and following a Ministerial Order began operating officially as one district in August. The SMRID, Lethbridge County, the Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District (LNID), and the St. Mary River Irrigation District (SMRID) have signed on for another three-year term, signifying the desire of all parties to work together for the benefit of the region. The framework agreement provides a guide for future partnerships and opportunities through 2025.
In a release issued following renewal of the collaboration framework, Reeve of Lethbridge County, Tory Campbell said, “We are pleased to sign on for another term with our irrigation partners. One of Council’s strategic goals is enhancing collaboration with organizations in the region. With this agreement, we can continue utilizing our collective strengths to benefit stakeholders throughout the LNID and SMRID service area in Lethbridge County.”
The regional framework will continue to allow for the districts and County to share infrastructure and apply for funding in a more streamlined manner. General Manager of the LNID, Alan Harrold, said the district is “very pleased” with how the agreement has enhanced the relationship between the SMRID and County since 2020 and added, “Dialogue and project planning is proving to be mutually beneficial for our organizations and ratepayers.”
County Chief Administrative Officer, Ann Mitchell, highlighted, “Irrigation plays a critical role in our economy and since the last agreement was signed in 2020, we have seen great success with our partnership with the LNID and SMRID.” Mitchell added the County is hopeful, “to continue the excellent working relationship” fostered in the past three years under the collaborative framework.
The renewal of the agreement coincides with the County’s continued strategic focus to expand investment and agri-food business within the County, as well as several major projects underway within the two irrigation districts to improve irrigation infrastructure and expand capacity as part of the Irrigation Modernization Project.
In 2020, $815 million in funding was announced as part of the historic Irrigation Modernization Project. At the time of this announcement, funding totaling $407.5 million was earmarked from the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB), $163 million from the irrigation districts, and $244.5 million by the Alberta Government. In 2021, an additional $117.5 million in funding was announced bringing the total to nearly $1 billion in funding. The eight irrigation districts participating in the Irrigation Modernization Project include the Bow River Irrigation District, Eastern Irrigation District, LNID, Raymond Irrigation District, SMRID (including the newly-amalgamated Taber Irrigation District), United Irrigation District, and Western Irrigation District. A plebiscite held in November 2022 determined 328 out of 361 SMRID irrigators voted in favour of changing the expansion limit from 504,000 to 584,000 acres. In 2022 the board determined, “the district’s licensing has capacity to support the irrigation of at least 584,000 acres.” As of 2021, the LNID consists of 194,946 irrigation acres.
Manager of the SMRID, David Westwood, noted the relationship with both the LNID and Lethbridge County, “is positive and mutually rewarding,” and added the SMRID “values the relationship” with the other parties and the way working under a collaborative framework has allowed the SMRID to, “demonstrate one of its core values: ‘Work better together.’”
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