The Lake Diefenbaker project was initiated by the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation government under Premier Tommy Douglas. Construction on the Gardiner Dam and the Qu'Appelle River Dam began in 1959, but even though those dams were completed in 1967, the promise of the project was never truly fulfilled. The last major irrigation infrastructure work was done in 1972, and the westside canal was never fully implemented. In 1999, you could find a four-inch thick tree in the centre of the canal bottom, west of Outlook.
On July 2, the Saskatchewan Party government announced a $4 billion, 10-year project to more than double the irrigated acreage in Saskatchewan, adding 500,000 acres. For the opposition NDP, successor to the CCF, it looks like a good project, if done right.
NDP Finance Critic Trent Wotherspoon said on July 2, “This project has long held tremendous potential in value to the province. And I know this is a project that the federal government, and actually former minister, Ralph Goodale, have provided a lot of leadership on.
“And then the agricultural community and conservation groups have really been advocates and voices on this front.”
Wotherspoon added, “It holds a lot of potential by way of climate change adaptation of working to drought-proof Saskatchewan, with flood management and water management.
He noted it “holds tremendous potential for value-added agriculture, of course, within the province, which could be, very meaningful to our province’s economy as we move forward.”
Wotherspoon said, “This is a this is an important project, but it's going to be critical that we get it right. That and the details will matter on that front. But importantly, the stakeholders need to be engaged in a
truly consultative process here. And that includes downstream communities that could be impacted and that have questions. That includes folks like water security experts in the water institute.
He said, “The agricultural community needs to be directly engaged in this important work, because we need to make sure that we get it right and we need to make sure that the economic promise can be fulfilled. And that, in fact, our world-class producers are ready to adapt and utilize that new resource that would be presented.”