Wind Walk secures water licence
Foothills: Pipeline from Highwood proposed for three developments outside Okotoks
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Thursday, Sep 05, 2013 03:03 pm
Wind Walk’s developers and the MD of Foothills may have found a water source to allow the community and two other developments on Okotoks’ southern doorstep to finally go ahead.
Both the MD and the developers are working on a plan to build a pipeline from the Highwood River near Aldersyde to supply water for the 457-home Wind Walk project on the south side of Highway 7 as well as the neighbouring Gold Medal commercial development and the 300-home Sandstone Springs residential development west of Okotoks.
The MD is applying for provincial approval of a plan to transfer a water license acquired by Wind Walk’s developers to the MD. If approved, a pipeline would be built from the Highwood River near Aldersyde west along Highway 7 to supply all three developments.
If the Province approves the water license transfer MD Reeve Larry Spilak said the plan could resolve several outstanding water issues for the MD.
“This could be the solution to not only Wind Walk’s water situation, but also Sandstone and Gold Medal,” he said.
Spilak said council is also hopeful additional water licenses could be acquired in the future to serve the Aldersyde industrial corridor as well.
“This would be the answer for that as well, and for future industrial development in that area,” he said. “It would be a wonderful thing to be able to obtain. It would answer a lot of our water problems.”
The developer and MD propose drawing the water from the Highwood River from a location in the Aldersyde area and building a pipeline to distribute water to the three developments. A water treatment plant would be built on land owned by the MD to accommodate the project.
The exact locations for the water intake and proposed pipeline infrastructure haven’t been determined. The Province needs to approve the license transfer before construction can proceed.
The developer of Wind Walk is paying all costs associated with the license transfer and construction of a pipeline and related infrastructure. However, if the transfer is approved ownership of the water license and all related infrastructure will be in the MD’s name.
Seth Atkins, director for Holmes Communities, the developer of Wind Walk, said they don’t have a specific timeframe in mind at this point for when the license can be approved and work can begin on the Mike Holmes-led Wind Walk project.
“When we can finally turn on a tap, we’re ready to go,” he said.
Atkins wouldn’t say how much water is included in the license, but he said it would be more than enough for all three developments.
“I can’t release the full amount because we need it to be verified by Alberta Environment before we say how much we actually have,” he said.
Atkins also declined to say how much they are paying for the license.
The Wind Walk development has been held up, partially, over concerns regarding the development’s water supply.
At first, Wind Walk’s developers proposed using groundwater for the community and the Town of Okotoks opposed the move arguing potential impacts on the Town’s water supply.
As a result, Atkins said they have been working to find a source of water that would not impact the Town. He said the proposal should not affect Okotoks’ water supply because it would not come from the Sheep River.
He said they haven’t been able to work out their differences with Okotoks over the development, but added the door is still open.
“It was unfortunate that we weren’t able to see eye-to-eye with Okotoks’ vision around that,” he said. “We tried to address their concerns around any impact on their water supply.”
MD planner Heather Hemmingway said she doesn’t know how long it will take the provincial government to make a decision on the license transfer.
“My experience is it can take some time,” she said. “I really have never been able to nail down the challenges in transferring water licenses in this basin. There are numerous challenges associated with that, so I do believe it will take some time.”
An area structure plan approved in 2010 allowed groundwater wells to be used for the development’s first phase, but required a pipeline for the second and third phases. MD council approved first reading of a bylaw rezoning the first phase to direct control in July 2012, with a key condition being securing water for the development before construction can proceed. Wind Walk’s developers have until July 2014 to get a water source in place before the first reading expires.
If the two-year timeframe for rezoning expires, MD manager Harry Riva Cambrin said a new public hearing will need to be held to start the process over again.