Writer concerned about CFO application

Wetaskiwin council appears to need lessons in democracy and in the importance of water to all residents in the county.

Dear editor,

Wetaskiwin County water at risk! Wetaskiwin council appears to need lessons in democracy and in the importance of water to all residents in the county.

I’m confused. My understanding of democracy is that we elect representatives to represent all of us, not just their own interests or those of their friends. It is also my understanding that elected representatives are required to follow council’s duly enacted bylaws and agreed upon development and other plans. More importantly in this case, they are also required to follow legislation that is enacted by levels of government having greater jurisdiction than the county council.

It appears to me that Wetaskiwin county council lacks this basic understanding of democracy. On the basis of one application for a confined feeding operation, they are preparing to enact changes to the Municipal Development Plan that will have far-reaching and highly negative effects on every single bit of water (including groundwater) within the county! And they appear to be doing so without understanding that the provincial Water Act has the only authority over water, ground and surface including wetlands, in the province. As a result of this lack of understanding, they are providing suggestions to the applicant that could leave council or the county open to litigation – which we as ratepayers will have to fund.

The county declared this past summer an “agricultural disaster” due to drought. Now council is looking to amend the Municipal Development Plan (MDP) to allow development much closer to water bodies and wetlands. At present, there is a development setback of 1.6 km (one mile) from a lake, allowing an environmental barrier to protect surface water from contamination. But the motion made at the November 12 council meeting entertains the request to amend the MDP bylaw, reducing the setback restrictions to only 30 meters. Once such water is contaminated, little can be done to rectify the situation.

In a recent decision (December 10, 2015) council ignored the recommendations of the company paid to advise them because they did not understand the ecological ramifications of that decision. It was clear that their concerns were not about following the bylaws.  Council is also ignoring considerable scientific and other information provided to them regarding the negative effects of CFOs.

As landowners, we are extremely concerned by this behaviour and by the effects of decisions made without understanding the potential ramifications for everyone in the county. I urge all landowners to learn more about this proposed change to the MDP. It can and will affect us all and complaining after it is changed won’t help. Once our precious water is open to contamination, what will you and your family drink? Act now; write the council with your concerns. We must speak up and speak up now, for all our sakes.

Meeting minutes: http://call.county.wetaskiwin.ab.ca:8080/PublicCall2Order/Home.htm; Rod Hawken rhawken@county.wetaskiwin.ab.ca; Jarvis Grant jgrant@county.wetaskiwin.ab.ca

Kim Taylor, Wetaskiwin County