Province providing $150 million for pipelines
Alberta: 2014 budget doesn't restore cut to water program
Wednesday, Mar 12, 2014 06:00 am
Foothills municipal leaders are questioning whether there will be enough money available from the provincial government to help pay for much needed water pipelines in the region.
The provincial budget unveiled last week included $150 million over the next three years for the Water For Life program, with $50 million available each year. The program provides municipalities with funding to cover up to 90 per cent of the cost of new water pipelines. However, the provincial government did not restore a significant cut in funding to the program a year ago.
The program was widely cited as a potential source of money the Town of Okotoks could use to build a water pipeline to Calgary, a project that is estimated could cost as much as $100 million.
Okotoks mayor Bill Robertson said he hopes there will be funds available for Okotoks when the Town gets around to building a pipeline.
He said the Town can’t do it without financial help from the Province.
“It’s crucial, we can’t afford the $100 million to $120 million cost for a pipeline on our own, our community can’t afford that,” said Robertson.
When town council voted to build a pipeline last year, it directed administration to work with the city of Calgary and Province to draw up plans for a pipeline and bring them back to council for a final decision this spring.
MD of Foothills reeve Larry Spilak said the Foothills Regional Water Collaborative may look to the provincial government for funding from the Water for Life program at some point in the future.
“If that were to be successful then we would be looking at a water pipeline from the Bow (River) to service the entire region and for that, of course, we will go to the Province for money,” he said.
With the Town and MD potentially looking for a share of limited funding from the program, Spilak said it could limit what would be available to either party.
He said the provincial funding that is available from Water for life will help, but it’s not enough.
Spilak said the Province needs to make more funding available to municipalities to pay for water projects to serve growing communities.
“I don’t believe it’s adequate for what’s going to be required, for not only this region but for other regions in the next three to five years,” he said.
Alberta municipal affairs minister Ken Hughes said Water for life isn’t the only program municipalities can look at to pay for water pipelines and related infrastructure.
He said Okotoks can look to the Municipal Sustainability Initiative, Water For Life and the province is increasing funding available through the Alberta Community Partnership Plan.
Hughes said he encourages municipalities to work together and look to the community partnership plan for funding for join projects, such as pipelines.
“While there may not be a complete path for every possible project that people are looking at, such as the water lines you’re talking about, I’m going to be working with those municipalities,” he said.