ALBERTA ENVIRONMENT AND PARKS ATTEMPTS TO CLEAR UP WATER APPLICATIONS BACKLOG AT EXPENSE
OF UNKNOWING RANCHERS
This story is brought to you in part by
By Cori Marshall
On January 26, 2018, the Wilson Law Office in St. Albert, Alberta filed a Notice of Appeal for Brower Ranching Co. Ltd. The notice describes the ranch as a "traditional Agricultural user" and is in direct response to Alberta Environment and Parks "Director's denial of the 2001 Application for Diversion of Water."
This is the fourth generation of Browers to operate this ranch. The notice indicates that the "original water source was developed by the North West Mounted Police in 1910." The family had since augmented the water sources in the 1950s and 1980s.
Between 1980 and 1996 Alberta regulated water taking and water use through the Water Resources Act, under this legislation farmers and ranchers could "use water for livestock watering and household uses without the requirement to obtain a licence."
The Water Act was enacted in 1996 and would "allow existing farmers and ranchers to continue their traditional use of water." Under this new regulatory document farmers and ranchers were obliged to "codify their traditional user water rights prior to December 31, 2001."
It was on November 29, 2001 that an application was filed for Brower Ranching Co. Ltd., and that application was received on December 7 of that year.
On December 27, 2017, a letter was received by the family stating that "review of the submission revealed that further information is required in order to consider your application complete." The Director subsequently closed the file and invited the family to re-apply, though the window closed on traditional water use application sixteen years ago.
It is odd that AEP would come back on a water use application a decade and a half later, so we contacted the government department to find out why this is taking place.
Jason Penner, Communications Advisor for AEP, informed Water Today that "Water Act staff are reviewing 1050 backlog applications from Calgary and South; applications range from agricultural, commercial and municipal."
When asked why applications from over a decade ago were now being reviewed and closed he responded "AEP is closing a small number of water allocation applications where the applications have missing or insufficient information and attempts have been made to have the applicant provide information with no response."
In the case of the Brower family's ranch, the family claimed that they were "not aware of any request for information."
The "decision to close these files was made so the department can focus on applications that are progressing," Penner said.
There were no issues with well operators or the wells themselves, Penner underlined that the "goal is to reduce the backlog of more than 1000 applications in southern Alberta to focus on current applications."
The Brower ranch and others in the same predicament would be in violation of the Water Act should they continue to take water as they did under normal circumstances. The other side of the coin is the Alberta government is trying to lighten their workload. Seemingly two incompatible positions.