Letters to the editor – January 14, 2021

Alta. coal mining approval questioned

Re: water allocations for coal development in southwestern Alberta.

I am writing in appeal to Alberta ranchers, farmers, and perhaps primarily those who irrigate, with respect to the imposed development of the open pit coal mines endorsed by our current provincial government. I don’t wish to provide lengthy commentary so I’ll get right to the point.

I have been reading many of the submissions that have been written to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada. I understand the argument by the pro-development side of this issue, which seems only able to talk about jobs and economic stimulus but not much else.

I don’t disagree with people’s argument about the necessity of jobs at all. Having said that, though, it does not mean that we throw everything else under the bus in order to achieve that. This then speaks to diversification within industry and the willingness to do something different and better.

However, that aside, two points which I’d like to raise and consider extremely important are these.

First, with regard to the reference of “possibly” 400 jobs, let’s think about that for a moment. If the water allocations for the mine — which are going to be substantial — are going to retard the water allocations for downstream users such as irrigators, are we not robbing Peter to pay Paul?

What about those jobs and livelihoods in that agricultural sector that have been established long before Australia came to town? Are we really going to make sense of the potential destruction of a long-time established and well-endorsed agricultural industry to be displaced by a foreign investor?

The farmers in question have enormous investments in their respective operations. Is that suddenly a situation we can regard as, “too bad?”

To be frank, that seems treasonous to an industry that not only has longevity but now continues to support this province.

My second point, directly relative to the first, is the construction of the Oldman River Dam to further support agriculture.

This development, procured by a previous Conservative government, produced a very negative impact on portions of three river valleys in order to achieve what was felt necessary by that same agricultural sector.

However, given that the dam construction and the resulting reservoir was to benefit the irrigation districts downstream, how is that in keeping with a sizeable water allocation being provided to the coal mining venture and inevitably short-changing the necessary water allocations to existing farm industry?

“Completed in 1991, the Oldman River Dam was one of a series of large-scale dam projects such as the Gardiner Dam on the South Saskatchewan River that were constructed after 1945 to support agricultural and economic development in the arid regions of the SSRB.”

To me, this seems a contradiction. I think it’s only fair to ask yourself, and the Alberta government, what is the rationale in this decision and where, as long-time committed agricultural professionals, do you stand in this and certainly, what do you stand to lose?

Bob Costa

Cowley, Alta.

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