Plans for Red Deer River could be disastrous for river valley ecology

Alberta Wilderness Association

News Release: October 4, 2004

The government appointed Basin Advisory
Committee (BAC) for the Red Deer River is
ignoring the water conservation requirements for
a healthy river in favour of using its water for
future needs that will threaten the Red Deer
River ecosystem.

"This river is a resource that belongs to the
entire province, and we should not let a
short-sighted, government-appointed committee
guided by local self-interest, sign away a river's
future health," says Heinz Unger, AWA Board
Member and Vice Chair of the Bow Basin
Advisory Committee.

Government-appointed BAC's representing
the South Saskatchewan River Basin (SSRB)
have been deliberating for the past couple of
years to arrive at recommendations for water
conservation objectives (WCO) for water
management plans for the four sub-basins
of the SSRB. In a recent Alberta Environment
report, three of the sub-basins; the lower reaches
of the Bow River, the Oldman River, and the
South Saskatchewan River, have been diagnosed
as being degraded due mainly to large water
allocations. Only the Red Deer River is still in
reasonably good shape and has sufficient
flow left in the river for in-stream needs.

The advisory committees for the Bow, Oldman
and South Saskatchewan Rivers are trying to
conserve more water for the aquatic environment,
especially the riparian habitat. Despite the hard
lessons learned from allocating water without
regard for river ecology, the BAC for the Red Deer
River recommended to Alberta Environment to set
the target for conservation very low - only half the
scientifically determined flow needed to maintain
a healthy long term aquatic environment.

Municipalities in the Red Deer River sub-basin
understandably want to reserve sufficient water
allocations for their future population and economic
growth. However, the reason behind the
recommendation may be a perceived need to
reserve a sufficiently large allocation of water for
large projects including the $170 million Special
Areas Water Supply Project proposed by the
Alberta Government.

"How is it that some people refuse to learn from
the past and don't use foresight when making
decisions that will affect our environment in the
long term?" says Unger. "We cannot have healthy
wild places if the rivers running through them
are not healthy. The lower Bow, Oldman and
South Saskatchewan Rivers with their dying
cottonwood groves should be a lesson and
a warning to all of us."

For more information, please contact:
Heinz Unger, AWA, 403.851.7632
Lara Smandych, AWA, 403.283.2025