Irrigation of Lake Diefenbaker: Farmers and Indigenous communities are skeptical

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Irrigation of Lake Diefenbaker: Farmers and Indigenous communities are skeptical

The project Lake Diefenbaker irrigation project was announced in 2020 by the Government of Saskatchewan.

Nearly three years after the announcement of the Lake Diefenbaker irrigation project in Saskatchewan, some farmers and indigenous communities are not hiding their doubts about the benefits of the initiative.

< p class="e-p">The project was announced in 2020 by the Government of Saskatchewan and aims to double the area of ​​irrigable land in the province, adding 202,000 hectares of irrigated land in southern and western Saskatchewan. the province.

With this three-phase project estimated at $4 billion, the government also intends to create many jobs during and after construction, which is expected to span approximately 10 years.

According to provincial data, irrigation accounted for 50% of all water used in the province in 2019.

A spokesperson for the Saskatchewan Water Safety Agency (WSA), Patrick Boyle, says the project is only in its preliminary phase.

This project represents thousands of kilometers of connected canals. It involves a lot of work and technical data that must be collected to fully understand all the factors, he said in an interview on the show Blue Sky CBC, Thursday.

Technical studies to develop an environmental assessment proposal are underway, according to Patrick Boyle. He adds that more information is needed to be able to determine if the project will exceed the projected costs or time.

A farmer in southern Saskatchewan who practices his own #x27;irrigation, Murray Hidlebaugh, has had doubts about the project since it was announced. He is skeptical of the province's environmental commitments and questions the benefits the initiative could bring.

As a farmer, I'm always wary of these big projects. They cost me a lot and I often get little out of them, he points out. massive irrigation on wetlands and biodiversity, since in the agricultural environment it is a concern.

He doubts that the project includes enough flood protection and diversification strategy, which he believes the province needs.

I welcome the fact that he is proceeding cautiously, but I believe that the government could make better use of this time and this money. We need new tools, not old tools on a grand scale.

Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations of Saskatchewan Deputy Chief Heather Bear says affected First Nations were not sufficiently consulted when the Lake Diefenbaker irrigation project was announced.

It emphasizes that affected Indigenous communities are concerned about environmental effects, including water and air quality.

The province should consider the Saskatchewan River and Cumberland House deltas and the potential effects [of the project] on the migration of millions of birds that come to the area, says Heather Bear.

WSA's Patrick Boyle clarifies in an email that First Nations and Métis involvement is a priority. He adds that the project has made contact 567 times with indigenous communities.

However, Heather Bear does not believe that indigenous farmers will benefit from this project, even if x27; they will probably be the most affected, according to her.

You really have to start from scratch with this project.

With information from Dayne Patterson

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