Council advised of water information session

By Rob Vogt
A group of concerned citizens in the Municipal District of Willow Creek has organized an evening to provide information on water, drought, and the threat of wildfire.
Roy Penniket and Rod Brunes, who are part of the Chinook Watershed Crew, appeared as a delegation at Claresholm town council’s March 11 meeting to explain what they have planned, and request any assistance the town can provide.
Brunes said their group members live in the M.D. and are hosting a water forum at the Claresholm Community Centre on April 15.
It will start at 5 p.m. with complimentary beef on a bun.
The purpose of this event is to create greater awareness for drought preparedness and mitigation among the communities of the Porcupine Hills/Willow Creek region from High River to Fort Macleod.
The Oldman Watershed Council will be presenting slides to give some background information and context.
This will be followed by the premiere showing of a documentary produced by Yvan Lebel and Kevin Van Tighem called “Dried up, what now?” and a panel discussion.
The panel will be made up of Cheryl Bradley, a biologist with knowledge in watershed planning; Kim Wachtler (née Burton) of Burke Creek Ranch; James Byrne, professor emeritus of geography and environment at the University of Lethbridge; and Stewart Rood, research professor of biology and environmental science, University of Lethbridge. The moderator is Kevin Van Tighem.
Brunes invited everybody to come. It will be an information sharing event, that will include the M.D. providing fire-smart information.
“It’s to increase awareness of everybody,” he said. “With regards to the drought and how serious it is.
“I think everybody can appreciate that, we all know what’s going on here.”
He asked what are the next steps then?
His group wants to increase everybody’s level of awareness about wildfire as well, noting the Granum fire 30 years ago and the fire south of Claresholm two years ago.
“This is really serious stuff,” Brunes said. “And I think we’re all aware of that but this will give some insight into that as far as preparedness.”
He also pointed out the group is bearing all the costs including hall rental, the sound system, and food, and requested the town consider contributing $500 to help offset these costs.
In recognition, the town would be included on all the event’s media.
Penniket said they started as a coffee group talking about issues. There are so many issues, they narrowed it down to water.
He said he talked to a lot of people who say it is a little dry but there is lots of water in the river.
“No there isn’t,” he said. “The numbers are getting staggering.”
Penniket lives east of Granum on Highway 519. There is a well north of him that has lost 30 feet of head over the last 30 years.
“It’s going down a foot a year,” he said. “We are running out of water.”
Penniket noted everyone needs to change some of the things they are doing. He drives up to Claresholm and sees new pivots along Highway 2.
“Where’s that coming from?” he asked.
“We couldn’t fill our pond in Granum because there wasn’t any water in the creek,” he later added, noting he hoped for more snowfall this year.
Penniket was also on the Bow River irrigation board in the 1980s, and it was over allocated then, but water licences are still being granted.
The Oldman Dam was built in the 1980s. It was estimated it would take three years to fill the reservoir. It took two years because of good snowpack and big rain in the spring.
“If that happens again we’ll be (darn) lucky,” Penniket said. “If we don’t get the snow, there’s going to be some irrigators that are going to run out of water and that is part of our economy in Southern Alberta.
“We live and die by rain and agriculture.”
Coun. Mike Cutler asked if they had contacted the town’s director of emergency management Jason Hemmaway.
Brunes said they have not, but have talked to the M.D. staff, because that is where they live.
Cutler suggested they talk to Hemmaway because he can help with what the Town of Claresholm can contribute.
“We’re reaching out to everyone we can,” Brunes said.