Saskatchewan’s Water Security Agency (WSA) has issued the largest single agricultural drainage approval in the province’s history.
Located in the Gooseberry Lake Watershed, the Dry Lake Project is a single approval permit issued to 73 landowners of more than 7,000 hectares (18,000 acres) for an organized, managed drainage network. While large scale organized drainage projects have been built before, this project is unique as it includes all existing drainage works and some future drainage works.
“This is a significant project in our province,” said Scott Moe, Minister Responsible for the Water Security Agency. “Nowhere else has a project of this magnitude ever been accomplished. This single project is equal to roughly one year of drainage approvals issued in southeast Saskatchewan, which is remarkable progress.”
The Dry Lake Project saw WSA take a number of new approaches to issue the historic approval. A joint application was utilized for land control replacing the previous requirement for legal easements on 113 quarter sections or hundreds of neighbour-to-neighbour land control agreements.
“It’s great to see a group of hardworking farmers team up with Water Security Agency to find a responsible solution to water management,” said Ken Weichel Reeve for the Regional Municipality of Montmarte.
The WSA describes its new approach to agricultural drainage as necessary to address the negative impacts of past, uncoordinated projects, including “local to large-scale downstream flooding and infrastructure damage; degraded water quality from erosion and increased contaminants; and negative impacts on wetlands and beds and shores of other water bodies and watercourses”. The new approach seeks to maximize the benefits of agricultural drainage on crops while managing the impacts on water resources in the province.
The inclusion of 30 gated structures permits controlled release of flows that will throttle spring runoff to the equivalent of a one-in-two-year flow rate. Flow controls for existing drainage aim to ensure that downstream landowners and communities will not experience increased flooding. The project also restored 34 acres of wetlands on existing drainage and 21 acres of wetland retention on new drainage.
The Approval to Construct, Approval to Operate, and Aquatic Habitat Protection Permits were all issued from one application and at one time and with one set of conditions. The Upper Souris Watershed Association acted as the Qualified Person to assist producers with the application process, significantly reducing paperwork for landowners.
The Water Security Agency is currently working with hundreds of other landowners on an additional 12 organized drainage projects making up nearly 65,000 hectares, or more than 160,000 acres.
For more information on the Agricultural Water Management Strategy, visit www.wsask.ca