By Trevor Busch
Originally announced back in summer 2021, plans for the Chin Reservoir expansion are beginning to take shape for two irrigation districts involved in the $133 million project.
The planned expansion could add up to 200,000 irrigated acres to the two districts, and should catch the eye of value-added food processors in the region. The project will allow for the expansion of irrigated acres in St. Mary River (SMRID) and Raymond irrigation districts.
“We had great data collection and working very collaboratively with Alberta Environment,” said David Westwood, general manager with the SMRID. “And there was actually just a recent public call for comments on the terms of reference on the scope of the project. I think those have been received now and we’re just finalizing our final submission to Alberta Environment and the regulating division as we have to go through a formal environmental impact assessment. So we’re just about to finalize our submission for that.”
It has been close to 40 years since any reservoirs were expanded in SMRID. The Chin Reservoir was completed in 1955, and is currently about 24 kms in length and has a water storage capacity of 154,320 acre-feet.
The SMRID is also investing in improving the efficiency of its related irrigation infrastructure through converting 150 km of lateral canals and ditches into pipelines. This comes at a cost of about $130 million, funded in large part by the province and the Canada Infrastructure Bank as part of a previously-announced $933 million irrigation investment in partnership with Alberta’s irrigation districts.
“We were one of the irrigation districts that subscribed heavily to the programme of the $933 million,” said Westwood. “That was announced that was going to be ultimately invested into irrigation between the province’s 30 per cent contribution, and then the districts financing and contributing their own funds for the other 70 per cent. We as a district were over 30 per cent of that amount. So we were significant, and that includes the upcoming expansion as well. We’ve made great headway out of the gate with the programme. And in 2020, 2021, 2022, winter season, we completed about nine projects. And now we’re doing another eight pipeline projects. So we’re aggressively working towards – we’ve actually, as the new combined amalgamated district, had about three – modernization and some infrastructure improvements, including the Sauder spill laid out in Sauder Reservoir, which we completed last year, and then the major Chin expansion. So we’ve signed up for a significant amount of that programme.”
The Chin Reservoir expansion project is expected to be completed by spring 2028.