Thursday, March 17, 2011

Planned feedlot threatens South Saskatchewan River

Council of Canadians
Weds., Feb. 15 2011

Concerns are being raised over a planned intensive livestock operation in the rural municipality of Rudy, Saskatchewan (about 94 kilometres southwest of Saskatoon) and its impact on the South Saskatchewan River. The Council of Canadians shares these concerns.

CBC reported on November 1 that, “A controversial proposal for a feedlot near Outlook, Sask., has won approval from the local rural municipality — a move that took some opponents by surprise. An Alberta farmer, Stuart Thiessen, wants to feed up to 36,000 head of cattle on a lot in the RM of Rudy.”

“The RM was facing a possible referendum, but council decided land use decisions are up to the municipal council and went ahead with the approval late last week. Project opponent Sue Peterson said some people ‘were kept totally in the dark’ before that vote was held.”

The group Citizens for Sustainable Development has since launched a legal appeal to challenge the decision.

Bob Patrick then wrote in the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix “The approval of an intensive livestock operation in the RM of Rudy is problematic due to the potential for surface water drainage of high concentration contaminants into the South Saskatchewan River. …The South Saskatchewan is the only source of drinking water for Saskatoon and many other communities in the watershed. In a province where so much of the land surface does not contribute to the river’s streamflow, can the RM of Rudy truly be the best location for such an operation?”

He adds, “The rush for an intensive livestock operation in Rudy may create more negative outcomes than positive benefits. This is a time for careful planning to undertake full assessment of the hydrological characteristics of the area, consideration of broader cumulative effects of all sub-watershed development activity, assessment of alternative locations, and full collaboration with all groups, including First Nations, and communities that depend on the river for a water supply. The human cost of water contamination from an intensive livestock operation (or any other activity) is simply too high. The economic cost of advanced water treatment to ‘fix’ water quality problems after development will be out of reach for many communities that now depend on this water source.”

Patrick concludes, “In the face of uncertainty, the right decision on intensive livestock operations is to protect the water source for future generations in the region.”

It would appear that the RM of Rudy itself is very dependent on water. The RM’s website states that, “The Rural Municipality of Rudy may be the most intensively irrigated municipality in Saskatchewan. Hay, potatoes, peas, beans, canola, sunflowers and safflowers are examples of crops successfully grown in the municipality under irrigation. Hay processed at a dehydration plant in the municipality is sold internationally as high quality animal feed. Large hog barns in the area provide a market for the feed grain grown under irrigation. Excellent dairy and beef herds represent the cattle industry in the municipality.”

CKOM Radio reports that, “The (Saskatchewan) Ministry of Agriculture now must see that (Namaka Farms, the ILO proponent) has considered everything, including water quality concerns. …If the province gives the green light, the feedlot would become the largest of its kind in Saskatchewan.”

In May 2009, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow raised her concerns about the health of the South Saskatchewan River. The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix reported then that, “The river cutting through Saskatoon is at risk, says the United Nations’ senior adviser on water. The streams that feed the South Saskatchewan River are also at risk and the glaciers feeding these streams are declining rapidly, said Maude Barlow, who is also Council of Canadians chair.”

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