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April 13, 2024 April 13, 2024

MLA Wright named to drought committee

Posted on February 15, 2024 by Taber Times
Southern Alberta Newspapers Photo Supplied. River level: Levels of the South Saskatchewan River at Medicine Hat over the course of 2023 as provided by Alberta Government and Environment and Climate Change Canada. Red and blue indicate natural and recorded flow while dashed purple lines represent upper and lower average flow over time.

By Collin Gallant
Southern Alberta Newspapers

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Justin Wright has been named to a committee that will report back to the provincial government as it manages an expected drought this year.

The six-person committee was announced Feb. 7 by Environment Minister Rebecca Schulz “as an independent sounding board to help the government support communities, farmers and ranchers, and businesses share, conserve and manage water during a potential drought.”

The province has already begun talks with large licence holders about potential sharing agreements, and Schulz’s office has asked municipalities, large industrial users and irrigators to develop conservation plans and operational contingencies in case of a water shortage.

“This committee will provide me with ideas and perspectives from leaders across the province,” said Schulz. “They’ll share what they are hearing and seeing and help identify new or better ways to support families, farms, ranches and businesses if we face a severe drought this year.”

Most of Alberta is experiencing a warmer and drier winter than usual due to an El Nino weather cycle after several years of drier than normal conditions.

Wright stated he is excited to take on the job.

“By working together and listening to voices outside of government, we will make sure that everything possible is being done to prepare for drought and respond if needed,” he said in a statement.

Also on the committee are Rural Municipalities of Alberta president and Reeve of Ponoka County Paul McLauchlin, Alberta Irrigation Districts Association chair Alex Ostrop, former Trans Mountain CEO Ian Anderson, Jack Royal of the Blackfoot Confederacy Tribal Council and Okotoks Mayor Tanya Thorn, a director with the Alberta Municipalities.

The committee has a one-year mandate to report to the environment minister. The release notes members will not receive renumeration for committee work.

Snow pillow is thin

The new snow pack report from Alberta Environment shows well-below average amounts of moisture in the mountains at Feb. 6.

Six stations that measure snow water equivalent above the Oldman River basin are among the top-five driest years in up to 42 years of record keeping, with five reporting half or less snow volume compared to an average year.

Conditions in the headwaters of the Bow River system are better, but only one of 25 stations’ levels is considered average. The majority show actual amounts one-quarter to one-third lower than a long-term average.

Snow course data for mountain areas is published near the beginning of each month, while the plains snow course and snow course comprising the Cypress Hills is released mid month in the late winter.

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