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Tag: Municipality of Crowsnest Pass

Man dressed in black pants and black shirt with yellow logo, on skateboard with dark moustache and beard and grey hat

Donations bring Crowsnest skatepark a step closer to reality

The Southwest Alberta Skateboard Society, composed of volunteers dedicated to promoting the growth of skateboarding in the southwest, has ramped up its efforts to have a new outdoor skatepark designed and built in Crowsnest Pass.

On Jan. 29, 2019, the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass made the difficult decision to abruptly close the Albert Stella Memorial Arena, the site of the old indoor skatepark that was widely popular with the Pass skateboarding community. 

The decision came after an engineering consultant retained by council submitted a structural analysis, citing numerous damages and deficiencies.

That same day, council announced in a press release that, after reviewing the report, the building was deemed unsafe and it was in the municipality’s best interests to close the arena to ensure the safety of staff and residents.

 

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Prior to the closure, Crowsnest Pass had a thriving skateboard community that occupied the indoor skatepark on any given day. When the arena was unexpectedly closed, it meant this community had to travel to neighbouring towns to skateboard at their parks.

“There’s a lot of really good skateboarders in the Pass that need a local place to skateboard,” says Ian Gauthier, secretary and treasurer for SWASS and co-owner of Boarderline Skate Shop in Lethbridge.

“When it shut down, we started to regroup and refocus our energy on trying to do a big push to get an outdoor skateboard park.”

Since the fall of 2021, after initial delays resulting from the inability to meet during the Covid pandemic, Ian and his fellow volunteers have proceeded to get the outdoor skatepark project back on track. 

 

Wild Developments Ad – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

 

This past year saw the group really up their efforts, hosting and attending various events and fundraising for the project. On top of their own fundraising efforts, SWASS has received support from the community as well.

Working with the municipality, SWASS was able to get approval on a future location, in Flumerfelt Park in Coleman, for the skatepark.

“We’re in a good spot with the community involvement. The city’s on board and the recreation department are as well, and we just want to push forward,” says Ian.

In December, after months of planning and preparation, SWASS and Pass Beer Co. announced the release of a new beer called the Pop Shuvit Pilsner, where a percentage of all sales would go towards the new skatepark.  

 

Ascent Dental Ad – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

 

Shortly after the release of the new beer, the Blairmore Lions club generously donated $10,000 to SWASS for the Crowsnest Pass skateboard park project. 

The money raised by Pass Beer and the Lions club, along with the location approval, are huge stepping stones for SWASS as it moves forward with its plans.

“We’re in the process of raising money for Phase 1, which is raising enough money to get the full design budget done up by a reputable skateboard company, skatepark builder, and then from there, we can then apply for all the grants and kind of move forward with the city in getting it done,” says Ian.

Ultimately, SWASS is pushing to get a new park built with the kids of Crowsnest Pass in mind, even if it is a long and expensive undertaking.

 

 

Group of people gathered in a pub with pizza on the table. In back, a man in a red shirt and another in a hat and grey shirt exchange a cheque. Two people in front hold a sign reading Boarderline.

Members of the Southwest Alberta Skateboard Society accept a donation of $10,000 from the Blairmore Lions Club. The money will go toward building a new outdoor skatepark in Crowsnest Pass.
Photo courtesy of Southwest Alberta Skateboard Society
Click image to enlarge

 

“It’s not going to happen overnight. It typically takes years to fundraise the money required for a quality-design skatepark done by a professional company,” says Ron MacGarva, president of SWASS.

“With that said, though, it’s all about the kids. Everybody knows that kids need places and opportunities to step out and be physically active, and skateboarding is a great way of doing that.”

The group aims to meet at the end of the month to discuss further plans to fundraise, skatepark designs, and selection of the company that will assist with designs and budget.

If you wish to stay up to date and learn more about the efforts to bring a skateboard park back to Crowsnest Pass, or are interested in volunteering, you can find SWASS on Facebook or Instagram.

The club is accepting donations for the skatepark, which can be e-transferred to SWASS  here.

 

 

Man dressed in black pants and black shirt with yellow logo, on skateboard with dark moustache and beard and grey hat

Skater Brendan MacArthur attempts a backside disaster trick at Banff Skatepark.
Photo by Cameron Stephens
Click image To enlarge

 

 

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Heritage Acres Ad – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

 

 

 

Circle with profile of William Cockerell, male wearing sunglasses and black shirt, with dark moustache, beard and long hair blowing in the wind.

 

Male youth pins poppy to Remembrance Day cross held by female youth, while another male youth stands at attention, on the front page of Shootin' the Breeze. Alberta news from Pincher Creek area and Crowsnest Pass.

Nov. 9, 2022

We will remember them

Peter Van Bussel and Abigail Rigaux receive a poppy from Walker Anderson at the MHHS Remembrance Day assembly in Pincher Creek.

Kids trick or treating in lion costumes – one roaring and one smiling on the front page of Shootin' the Breeze. Alberta news from Pincher Creek area and Crowsnest Pass.

Nov. 2, 2022

Lion’s share of fun

Ames and Miles were spotted enjoying Spooky Town and the great weather Saturday at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in Pincher Creek.

Council salaries a hot topic at Crowsnest Pass all-candidates forum

Multiple accusations were thrown around claiming councillors were abusing their power and benefiting from an unfair increase in salary.

According to incumbent councillors who responded to the allegations, the questioners were not representing the facts correctly and did not have the necessary information to make such bold claims.

Blair Painter was not present for the discussion, as he was uncontested and remains mayor by acclamation.

In on the discussion were incumbent councillors Dave Filipuzzi, Glen Girhiny, Lisa Sygutek and Dean Ward, along with new contender Vicki Kubik. Tara-Lynn Fletcher was absent.

Covid-19

Candidates agreed there isn’t much council can do about the pandemic and suggested they would simply follow provincial mandates.

“Municipal council hasn’t really got involved in the politics of Covid, but we do support whatever the provincial government brings down and we do try to promote it through our website and through our media relations with people,” said Dave Filipuzzi.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say that it’s on council to do this,” added Glen Girhiny.

“Every person that’s looking at this has a choice and it goes way beyond just one little thing,” he said. “Stay safe, be smart and let’s try and get through this.”

Concerns about council operations

A resident anonymously commented on the increase in council members’ salaries, questioning whether this was fair with the rising level of debt the community has accrued. 

The commenter claimed that between 2014 and 2020, the mayor’s salary increased by almost 100 per cent and council salaries increased by 120 to 170 per cent, while municipal debt increased by 900 per cent in the same time frame.

The resident said these numbers were obtained from the municipality’s audited financial statements.

Dean Ward, who has been councillor for multiple terms, said that these numbers were not correct and that the person asking the question did not have the full picture.

“In 2014, we made an average of $11,600,” he said. “At that point in time, I went out and surveyed every municipality in southern Alberta. We were the lowest-paid by a country mile.”

“In 2020, we made an average of $19,593,” he continued. “That’s a 69 per cent increase, so the questioner should go back and check his calculator.”

As for debt, he acknowledged that the municipality is $6 million in debt, but said there has been over $60 million worth of accomplishments since 2014 — something he’s proud of.

Incumbent Lisa Sygutek said council was deserving of the raise.

“This question really annoys me,” she said. “I’m doing 20 hours a week, I’m reading agendas, I’m taking questions, I’m attending meetings, I’m going to conferences. I’m doing everything I can to help this community move forwards. I’m missing time with my kids. I’m missing time at work. I’m not doing this because I’m doing it for a financial gain.”

Another question claimed council was abusing its power and complained about a top-heavy structure of governance where more managers are employed than workers.

Filipuzzi responded that council has mechanisms in place to deal with an abuse of power.

“I think if this council, or any other council in any other community, had reason to believe there was an abuse of power that they would deal with it in an appropriate manner,” he said.

“Lines of communication are there,” added Glen Girhiny. “They’re open. There’s nothing being hidden.”

Sygutek said the municipality is top-heavy compared to surrounding communities because of a legitimate need for more management.

She pointed out that Crowsnest Pass has a larger population than Pincher Creek and more land and infrastructure to maintain.

Pincher Creek, she added, has fewer workers within its municipality, with 69 employees compared to 220 in Crowsnest Pass. She said the ratio of employees to managers works out to about the same between the communities when the difference in size is factored in, with one manager for every 10 employees in Pincher Creek and one for every 20 in Crowsnest Pass.

Council transparency

Marlene Anctil, a current councillor who has chosen not to seek re-election, directed a question to Vicki Kubik about her involvement with the Ratepayers Association, a group known to request total council transparency. She asked Kubik what her views were on in-camera sessions pertaining to legal, labour and land issues.

Kubik said she’s a member of the Taxpayers Association of the Crowsnest Pass, not the Ratepayers Association, but added that she understands the need for some sessions to remain confidential.

“As a registered nurse, confidentiality is of the utmost importance and is just an underlying tenet of all of my interactions,” she said.

More information

Candidate profiles were published in the Oct. 6 issue of Shootin’ the Breeze and can be viewed online at bit.ly/3FEkhnO. The forum recording isn’t available but additional questions asked of candidates can be viewed at bit.ly/2X0h1lj.

Election day is Monday, Oct. 18.

Weston Whitfield loads recycling into truck

Pincher Creek recycling services set to change June 30

https://shootinthebreeze.ca/crowsnest-pass-council-approves-business-licence-payment-plan/Most of us are familiar with the three Rs associated with limiting our waste: reduce, reuse and recycle.

As it turns out, there’s a fourth R: renew the recycling licence.

During the Feb. 22 regular council meeting for the Town of Pincher Creek, Coun. Scott Korbett formally announced the town would not be renewing its recycling contract with KJ Cameron Service Industries. Come June 30, only empty beverage containers will be accepted at the bottle depot.

“The Town of Pincher Creek intends to continue to offer a recycling program,” the town’s official statement reads. “We are currently working with our regional partners to have a smooth transition to a new program by the end of June.”

While understanding the town is obligated to make economic decisions when it comes to contracts, Weston Whitfield, owner and manager of KJ Cameron, worries consolidating services on a regional basis might result in an inefficient service to taxpayers.

 

Blinds and More Ad – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

The process of gathering, transporting, then re-sorting material, Mr. Whitfield adds, might decrease the price recycling facilities are willing to pay.

“My concern is in the past, places that have done collaborations like that end up with a little bit of contamination and it can affect the resale of the product,” he says.

Although no official details have been released, the plan for future recycling appears to involve the Crowsnest/Pincher Creek Landfill Association.

Discussion recorded in the minutes of the Jan. 20, 2021, regular meeting of the landfill association includes “Recycling Update” as an agenda item.

The minutes describe proposals being sent to each of the municipalities and note that, despite no reply being received, each of the municipal representatives — Coun. Dean Ward from Crowsnest Pass, Coun. Brian McGillivray from Pincher Creek and Reeve Brian Hammond from the MD of Pincher Creek — indicated their respective councils are still considering or interested in the landfill’s recycling proposal.

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

Recycling was also a topic during last week’s council meetings for both the MD of Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass.

During the MD of Pincher Creek’s Feb. 23 council meeting, chief administrative officer Troy MacCulloch updated council on plans to move collection bins from outside the MD office to a site off Bighorn Avenue and Highway 507, near the Co-op lumberyard.

The site will cover recycling needs for residents from both the MD and town.

“This will be a site that the MD will build,” said CAO MacCulloch. “We will cost-share it with the town, and then going forward it would be operated and manned by the Crowsnest/Pincher Creek Landfill.”

Plans for the new recycling site are still tentative as the MD is working with the current landowner to develop a lease that would permit the property to be used as a transfer station for garbage and recyclables.

 

Grassroots Realty Ad – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

The garbage bins by the MD office, he added, could also be removed. This will allow for further development and easier access of the standpipe, which will remain at the location.

Meetings with Pincher Creek administration have discussed the possibility of the MD taking over the composting facility, which would be included on the site.

Crowsnest Pass council also voted Feb. 23 to direct administration to find a location for their own recycling bin.

Ease of access, along with being sheltered from the weather and from travellers’ field of vision, were identified as main priorities.

Administration was asked to present a location at the March 16 council meeting with hopes that users could begin dropping off recycling by the end of the month.

The goal is to eventually have three sites in the municipality to gather recycling. Beginning with one, said CAO Patrick Thomas, was a good place to “at least start and see what the challenges are,” especially to “see how [building] the fencing and screening goes.”

The Town of Pincher Creek’s full official statement regarding the recycling licence can be found online at http://bit.ly/PC-Recycle. More information on Pincher Creek Bottle Depot and Recycling can be found at www.facebook.com/pcbottledepot.

 

Oldman River Dam near Pincher Creek

Proposed water allocation changes cause local turbulence

One of the great blessings of living in Alberta is access to clean water.

For the last 130 years, water from streams and rivers in the South Saskatchewan River Basin has been divided among users.

The provincial government manages allocations to ensure enough water remains in the environment to support aquatic habitats while still providing enough for human consumption. At least 50 per cent of available water must also flow into Saskatchewan.

With the area’s population and agricultural industry growing, water in the river basin has become overallocated. Less water is being left in rivers, running the risk of unfulfilled demand in the event of a drought.

Given the tenuous situation, many have grown increasingly concerned with proposed changes to the Oldman River Basin water allocation.

 

Riteline Electric Ad – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

The government announced last November that it was considering changing the rules that determine how the 11,000-acre-feet limit — over 13.5 billion litres— is distributed among local sectors.

With several proposed coal mines around Crowsnest Pass at various stages of the exploratory and regulatory process, many feel the changes are simply the government opening the floodgates for coal development under the pretext of underutilization.

The situation is complex, however, and getting to the bottom of it requires a bit of a deep dive.

 

Ace of spades card on ad for Chase the Ace at the Pincher Creek Legion

Oldman allocation history

Back in the 1920s, a weir was constructed outside Fort Macleod to redirect the river’s flow into the Lethbridge Northern Irrigation District.

Irrigation helped provide water for farmers’ crops, though high summer demand coincided with low flow levels in the river. To address shortages, the Oldman Dam was constructed in 1991 to store excess water during the high spring discharge until it was needed in the drier months.

The dam’s reservoir can hold up to 400,000 acre-feet of water, though areas within the MD of Pincher Creek, MD of Ranchland, and Municipality of Crowsnest Pass became flooded. To accommodate the lost irrigation and agriculture potential, the Oldman River Basin water allocation was established in 2003.

The order applies to areas of the Oldman River upstream from the western boundary of the Piikani reserve, including the Castle River, the Crowsnest River and their respective tributaries.

The allocation originally set aside 11,000 acre-feet of water for irrigation purposes, available via licensing through the government. The order was amended in 2010 to allow a total of 1,500 acre-feet for municipal, agricultural and commercial purposes, with 9,350 acre-feet still reserved for irrigation. An additional 150 acre-feet was permitted for industrial use.

According to Alberta Environment and Parks, only 1,296 acre-feet is currently licensed for irrigation and 326 acre-feet for all other uses.

With only 16 per cent of the allocation actually being used, 9,229 acre-feet of water is going unclaimed — and although the South Saskatchewan River Basin plan stopped issuing water licences in 2006, licences for the Oldman allocation are still allowed.

The new conceptual allocation would remove the limits imposed on each sector while mandating that 2,200 acre-feet be reserved for environmental concerns.

 

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Why the changes?

The available licensing stems from a lack of irrigation investment, says Stewart Rood, a professor of biology at the University of Lethbridge who specializes in water resource management.

“There’s been very little uptake on that intended irrigation development,” he explains.

Irrigation works downstream, he continues, because the flatter topography allows gravity to move the water where it’s needed. The hilly region upstream would require expensive pumping. Since the area also doesn’t favour cash crops, the development initially intended by the allocation order is uneconomic.

“At one level, changing the terms of that allocation licence makes some sense,” Mr. Rood says.

However, he acknowledges that the main issue with opening up more allocation for industry comes with concerns of coal mining in the area.

 

Ad for Aurora Eggert Coaching in Beaver Mines

Water stewardship

Benga Mining’s proposed Grassy Mountain coal project is currently under federal review. The company has applied for 454 acre-feet of water, an amount it says is triple the actual amount it will consume but is required for recycling processes, with most of the water being treated and safely returned.

One hundred and fifty acre-feet falls under a licence Benga holds for collecting run-off that would normally enter Blairmore and Gold creeks. The remaining requested allocation would come from licence transfers from Devon Canada at York Creek, and the municipality at the Crowsnest River.

No water from York Creek or Crowsnest River will actually be extracted, though the licence transfers are required to reflect the quantity of water that will be used for the coal cleaning process at the mine.

Despite being a very small portion of the 11,000-acre-feet allocation — which in turn makes up a fraction of the 400,000-acre-feet capacity of the reservoir — the amount, says Cows and Fish executive director Norine Ambrose, needs to be contextualized to location.

“If you change the hydrology — whether you’re diverting it, or reducing it or even adding to it — you change how much water is available to the ecosystem,” she says.

Allocation orders, she says, are an important way to ensure water remains for natural uses.

“Alberta has recognized this quite a few years ago, and is doing a much better job at trying to mimic nature and allocate the flows that are needed for nature, or what’s called the instream flow needs,” Ms. Ambrose adds.

 

MD of Pincher Creek Ad – – Pincher Creek Trade Show

Determining allocations

Given the sheer number of rivers, streams and creeks in Alberta that have individual characteristics, the specific levels that must remain in each for a healthy ecosystem are nearly impossible to determine.

To address this, Alberta Environment and Parks uses what’s called the desktop method to set standards that establish allocation amounts: only 15 per cent of a river or stream’s natural flow can be removed, or a minimal 80 per cent exceedance of the natural flow must be maintained.

The exceedance limit may sound overly technical but is easier when you remember rivers have different levels of flow over time. The amount of water flowing over the course of the year starts low in the winter, increases through the spring run-off and rains, and peaks before decreasing in the late summer and autumn months.

Graphing that change gives you a bell curve; the 80 per cent exceedance simply requires at least 80 per cent of that bell curve to remain in the river throughout the year.

 

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Ideal versus reality

Despite allocations aiming to let water run its natural course, much of the Oldman River is used downstream from the reservoir.

The area is currently allocated 170,250 acre-feet, 90 per cent of which is used for irrigation. Demand is so high that the allocation order requires that only 45 per cent of the water remains in the river.

Even with such high use, Alberta has been able to honour its water commitment to Saskatchewan with about 75 per cent of water flow passing across the border, though a drought in 2001 dropped that amount quite close to the 50 per cent requirement.

Deciding who gets water in times of shortages is tied to licence seniority, known as “first in time is first in right.” With water usages evolving past agriculture and irrigation, however, identifying water rights has shifted to be based on priority. Drinking water for towns and cities takes precedence, followed by livestock.

Other sectors would then each take a cut, or “share the shortage,” to make sure no one goes without.

 

The issue with freeing up licences upstream from the Oldman reservoir, says Shannon Frank, executive director of the Oldman Watershed Council, is licence seniority is usually enforced over sharing the shortage.

“We have concerns about those dry years where every drop counts,” she says. “Having additional licences does add a bit more pressure to the system overall and those with junior licences could get no water.”

Establishing allocations also depends on knowing what the natural needs are for the environment.

“It’s not just which of us get the water; we also have to think about the health of the river and how much we can leave in the water for the fish and the trees and the overall health of the watershed,” says Ms. Frank.

Since river flows naturally have variation, adds Mr. Rood, the natural ecosystem has evolved to deal with some variation.

“If we’re paying attention, we should be able to pick up the stress due to insufficient flow before it is irreversible or lethal,” he says.

The problem, he continues, is gathering the required information.

 

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A Benga problem

Since the riparian health of creeks and streams is site-specific, the generalizations of the desktop method may not be adequate for every location.

As such, the effects of allowing coal companies to draw water from smaller streams in the headwater aren’t known.

Benga has 10 hydrometric stations in place, which have been measuring water flow at Gold and Blairmore creeks for the past several years. The company also states operations will reduce Gold Creek’s flow by only about 10 per cent, which is within environmental limits.

Although data is being gathered, scientifically accurate measurements on flow must allow for the wide swing in variation creeks experience. The typical standard is 30 years worth of data — a difficult mark to reach, considering the limited personnel and resources available.

“We’re challenged right now because the data on allocations isn’t done at that small of scale usually,” Ms. Ambrose says. “I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be any removal of water — I think we just have to make sure that the water we do take, relative to that place, is acceptable.”

Solid data is doubly important, Ms. Frank adds, given the location of many of the proposed mines in the Oldman’s watershed.

“That’s one thing we have been asking for before we withdraw water from any of these headwater streams,” she says. “That would tell us how much we could withdraw without having a big impact.”

Issues surrounding climate change, such as earlier snow melts and declining summer flows, also mean future conditions should be accounted for. Such foresight is especially important for Gold Creek, which is home to one of the last remaining Alberta populations of westslope cutthroat trout.

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

Not water under the bridge yet

Although the government says altering the allocation would attract new industrial investment to the area, prospective coal mines would be first to benefit.

With water use upstream from the reservoir not as taxed as farther east, the minimal amount of flow data for the smaller headwater creeks and streams the mines would affect raises questions about local environmental stewardship — along with other water-related issues, such as pollution and treatment.

For now, further information about the changes is on hold as public consultation will resume after the province establishes its new modern coal policy, prompted by the reinstatement of the 1976 coal policy.

Public consultation on the government’s coal policy is set to begin March 29.

Current water licences can be viewed online www.alberta.ca/alberta-water-licence-viewer.aspx.