County takes stand on wetlands restoration
Camrose County has requested a meeting with Alberta Minister of Environment, Shannon Phillips, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, and Wetaskawin-Camrose MLA Bruce Hinkley to discuss the Wetland Restoration Compensation Directive.
In a press release, the County says: “Replacement of wetlands is required to align with the Wetland Restoration Compensation Directive, a document the Alberta Government has repeatedly promised to release over many years, but is still not available. This leaves the only option as compensation to Ducks Unlimited, the only provincially approved Wetland Agent.”
Camrose County reeve Don Gregorwich says that the county is strongly against having tax payer money go directly to a private firm.
“The big issue we have with that is Ducks Unlimited can take our money that is paid for by Camrose County tax payers and they can use it in their restoration projects anywhere they choose, outside of the county,” he said. “
We’re absolutely opposed to that situation where Camrose County tax payer dollars, leave the county, in the hands of a private organization.”
This is not a new problem for the County, Gregorwich said they have been dealing with this for years. The regulations in place cause for significant delays in road construction, especially the restoration of township road 480, to which Gregorwich says is “financially bad news.”
The increased regulations have been a thorn in the county’s side for a while, and for the past 12 years Ducks Unlimited has been the only approved wetland restoration agent in Alberta.
“We’re being faced with one obstacle after another because of regulations involving road construction through wetlands,” Gregorwich said. “This is a two pronged situation, one being that we’re really frustrated with the increased regulations involving wetlands and road construction. The other thing, is that we need to pay a penalty, in effect, for crossing over wetland with a road. That money is going to Ducks Unlimited, who then restores wetlands.”
The County has built up funds to restore wetlands, and the county is not willing to part with that money unless it stays in Camrose County.
“What we did here about six or seven years ago was we were in this situation again, at that time we said we’re not going to pay Ducks Unlimited,” Gregorwich said. “So our suggestion, and our action, was to take the money that we were being assessed for construction going over wetlands to take that money and put it into a wetland restoration fund in Camrose County. Until things change we’re not going to use it, but we’re not going to give it away either.”
Other counties have been in this situation before, and have just decided to go ahead and pay Ducks Unlimited.
“Everybody is in the same boat, other counties are paying, they’re just doing it, as far as I know,” Gregorwich said. “There are organizations within Alberta now that have the restoration capability and we could hire them if we were allowed to.”
Gregorwich is hoping that the province is willing to work with Camrose County and allow them to keep tax payer money within the county.
“We have given different scenarios and suggestions to the province, as to how we could use that money that we could use to restore wetlands in our own area,” he said. “These have been ignored and so we’ve finally gotten to the point where we just seemed to run into obstacle after another so we would just like for an opportunity to sit down with the minister and express our frustrations and make a couple of suggestions.”