Original Published on Aug 17, 2022 at 08:38
By Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
St. Mary River Irrigation District and Taber Irrigation District have completed an amalgamation of the two districts on August 1 following a Ministerial Order signed by Nate Horner, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Economic Development. The two districts petitioned the Minister back in December 2021 after holding a vote in favour of the merger in the fall of 2021.
The two districts are located between Lethbridge and Medicine Hat and are the first districts within the Irrigation District Act to merge, bringing the total down from 13 to 12. “The reason it made a lot of sense was Taber Irrigation District, geographically, sat right in the middle of SMRID,” said David Westwood, general manager for SMRID. “So, it made a lot of sense becoming one district. We could all become more efficient with this infrastructure.”
Both districts voted in favour of the merger with SMRID voting 509 to 132 and Taber Irrigation voting 126 to 104. Now with the amalgamation bringing a new era for the two districts the combined district now has a total of 500,000 acres under irrigation.
“SMRID was already the largest in Alberta, and in Canada. But now we are by far Canada’s largest irrigation district by a considerable measure now,” said Westwood.
With efficiency in mind the districts will work to help lead irrigation expansion and deliver on supporting communities, environment, and agriculture in the area. SMRID delivers water from reservoirs, canals, and pipelines to the many water users who are within the Highway 3 corridor in Alberta’s rural south.
“The Taber Irrigation District and SMRID were on the same page with a lot of initiatives. These big infrastructure programs that we are undergoing will ultimately lead to potentially new expansion acres somewhere down the road. We really thought that when we started to plan expansion as two separate districts, we were going to have to figure out geographically where potentially it might go across in which district, and who would be serving those. Before the amalgamation, we literally had irrigators who had irrigation acres in one district and across the road they were being serviced by TID infrastructure,” said Westwood. “So, we had to provide different infrastructure to get to those parcels of land, even though they were adjacent to each other. Now it doesn’t matter where the infrastructure is that’s serving it.”
With progress moving efficiency forward the newly-merged districts will re-launch a new brand and become a new organization that represents the two districts coming together. “We did a great collaborative effort to make this happen,” said Westwood.
The amalgamated district will be known as the St. Mary River Irrigation District in recognition of the St. Mary River, which was the shared water source for both previous districts.
This item reprinted with permission from the Herald, Lethbridge, Alberta