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City to shape future of North Saskatchewan

Regional plan to set land use for whole watershed

By: Kevin Ma

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jun 04, 2014 06:00 am

WATERSHED – A project is in the works to plan land uses within the North Saskatchewan River watershed.
WATERSHED – A project is in the works to plan land uses within the North Saskatchewan River watershed.
FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

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Regional plan consultation

Residents have many ways in which to take part in the North Saskatchewan Regional Plan.
The St. Albert Community Hall (17 Perron St.) will host an open house on the plan this June 11. This includes a workshop from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and an information session from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Residents interested in the workshop are asked to RSVP to nsrp@stantec.com or 780-917-8544. No RSVP is required for the information session.
Other open houses are planned for Vegreville, Leduc, Sherwood Park, Provost, Killam, Camrose, Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton later this month.
Residents can also fill out an online workbook on the plan. Workbooks are due July 31, 2014.
Visit https://landuse.alberta.ca/Newsroom/Pages/PublicConsultations.aspx for more details and copies of the online workbook.

City residents will get to shape the future of land use in the North Saskatchewan next week as part of a major round of community consultations.

Alberta Environment is coming to the St. Albert Community Hall next Wednesday for a workshop and open house on the proposed North Saskatchewan Regional Plan.

The plan, once complete, will set out how the North Saskatchewan watershed will develop over the next 50 years.

It’s like an area structure plan or zoning map for the whole region, explained Ken Crutchfield, city resident and vice-president of the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance.

“Alberta’s a busy place,” he continued, and the province wants to set out what activities should be done where. Next week’s open house is a chance for residents to have their say.

“A river is a reflection of the lands that it drains,” he continued. This plan will have a direct impact on water quality and flows in the North Saskatchewan region.

This plan will set out where forestry, industry, farming, housing and other land uses should occur in the future, said Brad Stelfox, a landscape ecologist who studies cumulative environmental effects with the ALCES Group.

It will also be binding on municipalities, he added.

“It is probably the paramount conversation that will shape Alberta’s future.”

Alberta is the house in which we live, he continued, and this is the plan for that house.

“I can’t imagine any conversation in Alberta that could conceivably be more important.”

What’s our priority?

This is the third regional plan that the province has done under the Land-Use Framework, said Alberta Environment spokesperson Neal Watson. The first, the Lower Athabasca plan, is now in effect, while the second, the South Saskatchewan, is at the draft stage.

This particular plan covers the entire North Saskatchewan River watershed – an 85,000 square kilometre area that includes Edmonton, St. Albert, Banff and Lloydminster.

“It’s a huge area.”

This plan is about all natural resources, not just water, Watson said. Its aim is to set out the environmental, economic and social goals for the region and to zone the place so as to meet those goals.

Alberta has seen incredible growth in recent years that’s only going to intensify, he continued.

“How do you see that balance between development and the environment?”

This document will identify specific plots of land for conservation or industrial development, and could include plans to preserve certain species, Crutchfield said.

“It won’t be just a philosophical thing,” he said of the plan.

The Lower Athabasca plan protects some 2 million hectares of land from oil or forestry development, for example, and sets limits on air, land and water pollution.

The province has released an online questionnaire about the watershed as part of this planning process.

The province is holding 21 open houses on this plan between May 27 and June 26.

Guests at previous open houses have discussed issues such as recreation, transportation corridors and ATV use, Watson said.

“An important theme we hear a lot of is the idea that we need to balance industrial growth with the loss of quality agricultural land.”

Next week’s session in St. Albert will feature a workshop from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. followed by an open house from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Watson said the province will likely table a draft of the plan next February, followed by a second round of open houses.

Crutchfield urged residents to attend the open house and fill out the online workbook. “Let your views be known.”


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