Monday November 24, 2014

Time to consider slough support


There has been a discussion going on for a few years about whether society should be paying farmers to maintain natural habitats such as bluffs of trees, pothole ponds and slough wetlands?

It is something I have written about before, and while there are those seeing merit in such payments, governments, who hold the purse strings for society on something like this, have never exactly embraced the idea.

It is understandable as a move toward payments like that would not come without a significant cost.

Of course those costs could be spread out somewhat.

There is no reason a farmer should pay land taxes on wetlands and tree stands deemed worthy of government support.

The fees paid by the more senior levels of government need not be on a level with the gross dollars a farmer might realize from the sale of a crop of canola. It would be more reasonable to reflect the longer term profit over costs of the surrounding cultivated land, less a portion to reflect the costs of reclamation not spent by the producer.

While such details would still need much work to be both affordable to government, and worthwhile to farmers, it is a process which needs to be looked at more closely once again.

The reason for the renewed interest in such a program should be clear to anyone, whether farmer, taxpayer, or politician on the eastern side of Saskatchewan and into western Manitoba following the extreme rain events which heralded the arrival of July.

The rain that came steadily over three, or four days, simply overwhelmed what is left of the natural water handling system of the land.

Over the years we have cleared, drained, dammed, built roads, and generally changed the landscape to suit our needs.

But nature is not easily controlled.

And the recent rain showed just that.

The sheer amount coupled with already wet ground, and in many places frost still in the ground to limit its ability to take on water, meant the water had to run over ground.

In its natural state most of the area affected would have been pock marked by potholes and slough and bluffs.

Tree stands slow water flows.

Potholes and sloughs are each natural, on-land holding sports for water.

Individually they do little in the face of a major flow event. Combined they capture thousands of gallons of water which do not continue to roll down the line.

When major torrents are created they do not simply flow over a road, they wash it away.

We see the impact with most roads in the region having washed out culverts and bridges.

The cost of fixing the damaged roads and infrastructure will take months and millions of dollars.

So could have retained sloughs, paid for by society have in essence spread the cost now faced in damage over many years, and by so doing prevented the hardships we face this summer?

That is a question for people more expert than I to determine, but it is a question which needs to be publicly asked and answered.

Calvin Daniels is Assistant Editor with Yorkton This Week.



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