The expansion increases the province’s irrigated acres by more than 200,000
Representatives from the Government of Alberta, Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) and eight irrigation districts in the province announced an $815-mllion investment in Alberta’s irrigation systems.
“There hasn't been a significant investment even close to this for about 50 or 60 years in the province. So, it's a very exciting time, not just for primary producers and farmers here in Alberta, but also to attract value-added food processing manufacturers to set up shop,” said Devin Dreeshen, minister of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
The investment includes four new off-stream reservoirs and 56 modernization projects, said Dreeshen.
“Between both of those projects, it is going to increase irrigated acres in the province of Alberta by over 200,000,” he told Farms.com.
The investment will create 6,800 direct jobs as well as 1,280 construction jobs. When completed, the projects are projected to add approximately $436 million to Alberta’s gross domestic product annually.
“It's a very significant investment in irrigation, the largest ever in the history of Alberta. It builds on a century-old vision that was started here in southern Alberta to have irrigation to expand our agriculture sector,” said Dreeshen.
Of the $815 million, $244.5 million comes from the Government of Alberta, and $163 million comes from the irrigation districts involved. The remainder is a loan from CIB that the irrigation districts will repay.
The eight irrigation districts involved are the Bow River Irrigation District, Eastern Irrigation District, Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District, Raymond Irrigation District, St. Mary River Irrigation District, Taber Irrigation District, United Irrigation District and Western Irrigation District.
The modernization projects start this fall and the engineering on the new reservoirs should be complete within the next four years, said Dreeshen.
“Because (these projects are) within existing water allocations that the irrigation districts have, we don't have to gain new approvals to expand. So, that's something that's allowed us to move so quickly on this,” he said.
These irrigation projects give farmers in the districts the ability to expand their crop rotations and grow higher-value crops, said Dreeshen.
“It's a huge economic boost for our agricultural sector for primary producers and farmers,” he said. “As a provincial government, we want to make sure that we can highlight agriculture, especially when it's doing extremely well. Agriculture is always going to be there for the province and the province will do everything we can for (the industry) to achieve its full potential.”