Letter to the Editor: Watershed membership crucial to solution

I am responding to an “Information Bulletin” that has been handed out in the Wadena area that makes reference to the Quill Lakes Watershed Association.

Although every one is entitled to an opinion on what is wrong with the handling of the Quill Lakes flood, from the outside looking in, I have found being involved has been a great experience. I am honoured to sit with all of the member representatives of the watershed association board representing the R.M.s of Ponass Lake, Spalding, St. Peter, Lakeside, LeRoy, Usborne, Prairie Rose, Mount Hope, and the communities of Wadena, Wynyard, and Quill Lake, and discuss issues on a broader scale.

If we need answers, or solutions, we have the ability and the powers set forth by legislation to develop and implement projects to help fix our problems, much like a local R.M. would do on municipal issues or SARM (Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities) would do on behalf of its member municipalities.

The problems we are addressing span many municipal entities that would find it difficult to solve these widespread problems on their own. We take the ideas, the opinions, and the individual solutions brought forward as a team, utilize the broad base of facts, research, seek science and engineering, and come up with solutions based on the combined strength of the whole group. We can never proceed with a project or solution unless it has had sound research.

We have developed a proposed solution, presented it to government, consulted with people in the area, and with many downstream that are also stakeholders.

Here are some misconceptions that need addressing:

The watershed can issue levies to complete projects! True. Based on the need, and of the appointed representatives’ informed decisions around the board table an make decisions to perform works. It is also a way to access government assistance from federal and provincial sources that require municipalities to pay a share of projects that they cannot handle on their own.

The decision to enter into a project, and a levy for that matter, is the decision that is scrutinized by the membership as to its affordability, its effectiveness as an investment that will provide a higher return than its original cost.

Federal and provincial governments would prefer to work on larger projects like this with one body rather than a potential 37 in our watershed area.

As a new watershed, we are attempting to develop a fair formula that could work throughout the watershed. Our levy, that was set by law each year by Feb. 14, is based on $1.00 per acre, and is needed to fund project development of the problems we are facing. It is not permanent, it is set each year according to the needs of its membership, similar to a municipal body.

Our board has heard from its members and non-members alike that all lands and all R.M.s are not equal. That is why we continue to seek the best and fairest way to implement levies as we go forward.

The issue of being able to leave the watershed needs clarification. Please refer to The Watershed Association Act Section 6. Subsections 1 and 2 for actual wording. It is not easy to form a watershed, or to join. It has to be with the permission of the existing board to become a member or to leave, at which time the request has to be sent to the minister. If a request to leave isn’t forwarded to the minister by the board, an appeal can be made directly to the minister.

So far none of our membership has expressed interest in getting out, only a desire to take responsibility as a larger, more effective entity to getting it fixed.

We can only assume that the reason it isn’t easy to get out is because, as a sitting member, you can make decisions to take on a long-term project and leave without fulfilling your financial commitments to the project.

We are working on the broad issue of the flooding at the lake level and as a consequence the loss of the “adequate outlet” status for organized drainage from upstream producers. This is not only an agricultural issue, it has ramifications for communities, municipalities, provincial infrastructure, and business. It is affecting our economy short, medium, and long term. Investments now in a solution could save massive amounts later on.

There are too many assumptions in the “information bulletin” of what “might happen” to even address.

All I can say to that is if you want to have affordable solutions for your ratepayers, communities and businesses in dealing with this water-based disaster, join the watershed and send someone to sit on the board. Help us find an answer to this mess while there is still time.

A unified watershed association is a powerful tool.

— Kerry Holderness, appointed representative,

R.M. of Lakeside #338; and Chair , Quill Lakes Watershed Association Board #14.

Wadena News

306.338.2133.

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