WHEREAS jurisdiction for rivers, lakes and other water bodies is the responsibility of the Provincial or Federal Governments; andWHEREAS prior to 1996 Alberta Environment planned, managed and undertook work necessary for the management of riparian issues and “training” of rivers, which program has since been discontinued; andWHEREAS municipalities are now being pressured to address riparian issues following major flooding, erosion, or other significant rainfall/flow events;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Province of Alberta to establish a policy framework for evaluating river management issues within Alberta as well as developing a financial program for addressing problems associated with river flooding and erosion, and that the responsibility for the program be assigned to Alberta Environment.
Following the floods of 1999, 2005 and 2006 dramatic changes occurred to certain river flow patterns. Many municipalities in Central Alberta found themselves attempting to address these river issues that were not eligible under the Province’s Disaster Recovery Program. Attempts to work with other Provincial Departments, principally AB Environment and to a lesser extent AB Infrastructure, accomplished little in terms of addressing concerns or resolving threats to public infrastructure or private property. It has become evident that, in large part, the difficulties are due to a lack of provincial policy and clearly assigned responsibility with regard to the management of rivers, beyond the current permit approval process. For example, in Clearwater County the Clearwater River significantly changed course during and following the 2005 flood. Notwithstanding repeated discussions between the County and AB Environment, over the period of eighteen months – identifying the threat the new river course posed to adjacent lands, municipal infrastructure as well as the high likelihood for inter-basin transfer – the municipality was advised that AB Environment was only an approval agency and that the only program available to address the situation was the Alberta Water Management & Erosion Control (AWMEC) program. The AWMEC program was deemed inappropriate not only in terms of the cost contribution required of the municipality but also in terms of the long term liability and management responsibilities that the County would assume through its participation in this program.A similar situation has evolved in Mountain View County where a new Red Deer River channel is significantly eroding private land and now threatens residential developments. Ongoing erosion threatens to force the relocation of a road within the foothills at a cost of millions of dollars, to require the relocation of gas and oil pipelines, and is threatening a residential subdivision adjacent to the river. Large areas of farmland have also been lost to erosion, caused by the moving river channels, with some quarter sections losing up to 70 acres of land in the past two years.In conclusion, the lack of clear provincial responsibility for overall river management must be addressed through the development of a clear policy framework governing assignment of responsibility and the provision of a budget to fund the work necessary to address problems.
The AAMDC does not have any current resolutions or background related specifically to river management. However, the AAMDC is a member of the Alberta Water Council. One of the Alberta Water Council’s primary strategic objectives is to ensure appropriate watershed/river basin management and stewardship activities are adopted within Alberta.
In 2009, the association began discussions with Alberta Environment to streamline processes related to the removal of debris from rivers during emergency situations. It is anticipated that municipalities will receive communication on this revised process in 2010. In addition, the AAMDC continues to advocate on the importance of appropriate long-term erosion and flood prevention measures through river-training. At a March 2010 meeting with AAMDC, Minister Renner noted that a large amount of resources are required to successfully deal with these issues, and that there are competing viewpoints on the environmental appropriateness of river-training. The AAMDC continues to dialogue with the minister on these important issues.