Farmers fuming over ditch

THEODORE, Sask. — Robert and Sharon Stuart have watched a drainage project near their farm with concern.


The farm couple admits they are anti-drainage.


“I don’t believe in water drainage unless somebody’s house is going to flood,” said Robert.


They also believe they might be the recipients of water they don’t want.


The Rural Municipality of Insinger applied and received approval last year for Water Security Agency permits to drain a slough along Grid 651 north of Theodore. The RM wanted to deepen the existing ditch to move some of the water south into Lawrie Creek.


The RM obtained permission from the two families who own the land with the slough, but the Stuarts said they were never consulted, even though water will move on to their land.


“We need this drainage ditch closed immediately until such time that downstream landowners have been consulted,” they wrote in a February email to Ken Cheveldayoff, the provincial minister responsible for the Water Security Agency.


“As a downstream landowner, we own 161.45 acres on SE 26-28-07-W2nd where this excess of water has to travel.”


The Stuarts are worried about contamination of their groundwater and a well. They also say they will lose land if Lawrie Creek widens.


Robert grew up nearby and said the slough has always existed but rarely caused problems.


Warren Thomson, manager of East Central Regional Services for the WSA, agreed while responding to questions from the Stuarts that water hasn’t gone over the road in the past, although it has softened the grade.


He also said the requirement for public advertisement of a drainage project could be waived.


“In this case, Laurie (sic) Creek down-stream of the project was deemed to be an adequate outlet for the volume of water drained by this project,” he wrote Jan. 20. “Please note that Laurie (sic) Creek, which exists in a natural state, is considered to be crown land as described by Section 16 of The Provincial Lands Act.”


He assured the Stuarts that the WSA has required the RM to install and operate a control gate at the project’s outlet.


The Stuarts say there was no mention of a control structure or culvert reconstruction, which is taking place, in the original application, and they wonder how permits can be amended.


They also contend that a condition of one of the permits, requiring spill piles to be placed above the water, has been breached because they have pictures and video showing the fill being dumped into adjacent wetlands.


Work underway on the project was stopped last fall because of winter, leaving a cut through the right-of-way that would allow slough water to move even without culverts.


Cheveldayoff wrote to the Stuarts that discharge from the slough would not be allowed until after peak flows on Lawrie Creek had passed.


“How do you plan on stopping the project from functioning when the right-of-way has been cut and left open?” Robert responded.


According to WSA information, the slough covers about 30 acres and the RM intended to drain it until it covered about 10 acres.


The Stuarts allege that the drainage project was never needed and that two RM councillors are farming land that will benefit from the drainage.


They took their concerns to NDP environment critic Cathy Sproule, who in turn asked the government to take the matter seriously.


A WSA spokesperson said the project is not in contravention of the rules.


“The RM of Insinger is following the proper process,” said Patrick Boyle.


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