An upcoming consultation process regarding Saskatchewan wetlands is one citizens in Yorkton should not only be aware of but be part of, suggests Mayor Bob Maloney.
“I think a consultation is a good idea,” he said, adding while there is concern over the fate of wetlands “I don’t see a lot going on.”
In response to some of the concerns the Saskatchewan government recently announced an online public consultation forum on agricultural drainage.
“Our research has shown that wetland drainage increases annual flows in an average prairie watershed by 62 per cent,” sad Brian Hepworth, Saskatchewan Manager of Provincial Operations for Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) in a prepared release. “Wetland drainage also increases downstream nutrient loading into our rivers and lakes, which contributes to algae blooms, and releases significant amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere nullifying the benefits of many publicly funded climate change initiatives.”
When wetlands are drained important habitat for biodiversity, ground water recharge potential, ecotourism opportunities, as well as flood, drought and erosion control are lost too.
Maloney said in the city natural wetlands “are a natural resource for us where water collects,” adding it “makes sense” to take advantage of the existing water holding capacity.
The Yorkton Mayor added in some cases the City has actually expanded natural low lying areas with storm water retention ponds, but noted any natural containment area is important.
That was born out in presentations made at the Prairie Flood Management and Mitigation Seminar held in Yorkton in April, and the idea of natural wetland retention is part of the new Community Plan being developed in the city.
And Maloney reasoned the importance will grow.
“All of the technology is telling us we’re going to be getting more storms, more water,” he said, adding in Yorkton we had a first hand look at the devastation that can cause with the July 1, 2010 storm event.
“You have to plan to deal with it.”
Part of the plan needs to look outside the city, offered Maloney. He said as wetlands are drained around the city the potential for the resulting run-off to impact the city certainly exists, adding communities such as Langenburg and Bredenbury have already experienced such run-off impacts.
“A lot of land has been drained and there’s no where for the water to go,” he said.
Maloney said ideally water should be retained in wetlands and released slowly. In most cases those wetlands are in farmer fields. He said in that regard he does not think farmers should bare the cost of keeping a wetland for the good of the region, and losing the potential crop revenue which could be generated through drainage.
Maloney said he is in favour of farmers being compensated for wetland retention adding “it is cheaper than replacing a subdivision.”
That is why in the release both Hepworth and Maloney think the Province’s public forum to seek input on wetlands is very timely, and stresses it is an opportunity for people to have a voice on wetlands retention.
Maloney said at present the City does not have a formal presentation planned, but said he, as a citizen intends to go online to offer his position, and he hopes others do as well. He added “it’s about time,” such a consultation was offered to the public.
To be part of creating a new agricultural drainage policy for the province you may sign up for the consultation forum by visiting the Water Security Agency’s website at wsask.ca or http://agdrainage.insightrix.com