May 1, 2006

Progress continues on Sask watershed protection plans as budget provides new funds

A locally-developed plan to protect and manage source water in Saskatchewan's Lower Souris River watershed is now complete, and significant progress is being made on plans for six other high-priority watersheds and aquifers, Watershed Authority Minister John Nilson reported recently.

"The completion of the Lower Souris River Watershed Protection Plan is an important milestone for Saskatchewan's Safe Drinking Water Strategy," he told a conference for planning committee members in Regina.

Nilson also announced details of $485,000 in new funding for watershed protection activities provided by the 2006-2007 provincial budget, presented last month. Watersheds and aquifers with completed plans will qualify to receive up to $25,000 to help pay salary, office and travel expenses associated with hiring a local implementation co-ordinator. A total of $150,000 will be available for this activity in 2006-2007.

The budget also includes: $100,000 to increase the level of technical support on groundwater the Saskatchewan Watershed Authority can provide to the planning process, including hiring a new hydrogeologist; $155,000 for improved information to guide water management, with $85,000 earmarked for land uses and water quality research and $70,000 to be provided for additional hydrometric stations to improve understanding of water flows; and $80,000 for the continuing protection of nesting areas for the endangered Piping Plovers along the shore of Lake Diefenbaker.

The development of plans to protect and manage source water is among the Authority's main areas of work. The province has 29 watersheds and at least ten major aquifers, and planning activities are underway in seven of these high-priority areas: the Assiniboine River, Lower Souris River, Moose Jaw River, North Saskatchewan River/Battle Creek, South Saskatchewan River and Upper Qu'Appelle River watersheds, and the Yorkton aquifer.

Saskatchewan's 13th consecutive balanced budget, presented by Finance Minister Andrew Thomson, included a number of other allocations for environment-related initiatives. The provincial government, for example, will match $10 million in federal funding for the Clean Coal project, enabling Canada and SaskPower to start initial work toward a coal plant with near-zero emissions and CO2 capture for enhanced oil recovery. Another $17.7 million is being directed toward ethanol program incentives.

The budget has also allocated $17.6 million for the 150-megawatt (MW) Centennial wind power facility, the largest wind power development in Canada. Once completed, wind power from the $272.4-million project, located 25 kilometres southeast of Swift Current, will account for about 5% Saskatchewan's total electrical generation capacity; the highest percentage in Canada. Centennial, combined with Saskatchewan's two other wind facilities, will give the province a total capacity of 172 MW of electrical generation from wind.

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