Council Turns Discussion to Effluent
When you take a whiz and later where it ultimately ends up was the topic of a re-vote by Moose Jaw City Council on Monday night.
Councillor Brian Swanson called for the re-vote regarding the City's plans to formally give notice to withdraw from an agreement which supplies effluent for irrigation to farmers south of Moose Jaw.
“In respect the agreement and the group called the Baildon Irrigation Inc and set up 40 years ago when Moose Jaw developed a waste water system that was somewhat unique…there were times when it rained a lot and effluent not needed...and times planned or unplanned where water released (into the Moose Jaw River),” Councillor Swanson stated.
He went on to say the new sewage treatment plant costing $26 million was almost paid for and the City was permitted to automatically release water once treated without the needs of a lagoon system.
The City has in fact been fined by Saskatchewan Environment for not properly treated effluent being released into the river in the past.
“One of the concerns was City of Moose Jaw taxpayers should no longer be in a position to subsidize rural residents and their farming (endeavours),” Councillor Swanson stated, adding in the future he would be reminding Council about the City subsidizing farming operations through the Moose Jaw Municipal Airport.
The airport serves as a base of a large crop spraying firm which is employed to spray crops by farmers throughout the region.
The RM of Moose Jaw, who does not own the Municipal Airport, commissioned a study supporting it’s expansion largely at City of Moose Jaw expense. The RM matches a $30,000 annual operations grant for the next five years.
Councillor Crystal Froese called the motion a formality and the other point of giving the three year notice was to allow formal renegotiations.
“It is also part of economic development to us,” Councillor Froese said, adding “it is a source of support for our farmers outside our community.”
She added there was great potential to grow not only forage but food crops.
“I think there is a lot more potential to this “
Councillor Swanson said he looked forward to Administration seeking direction in negotiations and not simply returning with what they are able to obtain.
Despite the re-vote the measure passed unanimously.
The Baildon Irrigation Inc group receives effluent from the City in a lagoon originally paid for by Canadian Mortgage and Housing Commission (CMHC). CMHC was lobbied heavily by area farmers most notably Don Swenson.
The effluent has been provided free to producers but in exchange the project in the past has saved the City millions in effluent treatment costs. The City now wants to charge for the effluent.
Recently the amount of effluent was limited when the main irrigation pump went down restricting effluent pivot utilization by about one-half. The City and the Irrigation group had a dispute who should pay to repair or replace the pump.
Additionally downstream lake and other users have started to voice concerns about the City's ability to directly discharge treated effluent without using a lagoon filtration system.
Previously the City has used the discharge straight into the river in preliminary negotiations, according to someone well acquainted with the negotiations and asked not to be named.
Editor’s Disclaimer – the story's author has a family connection to producers in the Baildon area.