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Willow Creek MD council postpones decision on Leavings Water Co-op

MD of Willow Creek council will not make a decision on its involvement in a water system that would tap into a treated water line running from Claresholm to Granum until it has further information.
Members of the Leavings Water Co-op, which is spearheading the project, appeared as a delegation to council Wednesday to make two requests.
The co-op asked council to apply for funding for the project.
The co-op also asked council to apply for a water licence in the MD of Willow Creek’s name.
The delegation was led by Cecilie Fleming who provided some background on the project.
When the water line was built from Claresholm to Granum, the MD of Willow Creek bought capacity in the line to increase its size.
In December 2009 the co-op was formed to bring water to the residents in the area.
A total of 143 people paid $500 to join the co-op.
Fleming said the co-op was granted the MD of Willow Creek’s capacity in the line, which amounted to 37.2 per cent of the capacity.
In the past year, the co-op asked members to each provide $2,000.
“Again the members stepped up,” Fleming said.
Fleming noted how the municipality has evolved over the years with phone, electricity, and natural gas lines being added.
“It’s unfortunate one of the most important utilities has been left to last and that is water,” Fleming said.
The federal government announced the Growing Forward 2 program, which is a package of funding to be cost-shared with the provincial government on a variety of agricultural initiatives.
Fleming said the co-op has 143 members, but is allowed up to 188. She is confident that maximum will be reached once people see the project going ahead.
Fleming pointed to the 2011 census, which had 772 families and 550 acreages in the area, for a total of 1,322 people.
That means 14 per cent of the municipality would be supplied water.
Fleming said the co-op has also been told by a realtor water service will increase property values.
With Growing Forward 2, the federal share is secure and everyone is waiting to see what the provincial government will do.
Fleming said the co-op has been told to be shovel ready.
It has lobbied government officials and the same issue arises: where is the funding coming from?
The Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration has said the project is feasible and a Growing Forward 2 grant the co-op already received was used to get a feasibility study, which is the next step under the program.
However, the rules have changed in the next step.
Funding must be applied for by a municipality, who would be the owners of the water system.
Fleming added the co-op is committed to partnering with the MD of Willow Creek.
MD of Willow Creek chief administrative officer Cynthia Vizzutti said the municipality has applied for a water licence for an allocation from Pine Coulee reservoir for 500 acre feet.
There is a possibility council could allocate part of that licence to the water co-op.
Gail Fjordbotten, who also sits on the co-op board, said it has lobbied government hard that municipal ownership is an unfair requirement.
Fjordbotten said the co-op was now before council because it has more clout.
The co-op needs 154 acre feet, and Vizzutti said the MD of Willow Creek could amend its application to 650 acre feet.
If unsuccessful, the worst case is the MD of Willow Creek would still have 300 acre feet.
Fleming said there seemed to be progress on the water licence, but said it is still up to the MD of Willow Creek to apply for funding for the system.
When asked how much it would cost co-op members without any funding, Fjordbotten responded the estimate was $40,000 per tap.
Later in the day Coun. Glen Alm said the MD of Willow Creek paid $170,000 for that additional capacity in the line, and that needs to be recovered.
Alm also asked if the MD of Willow Creek could sell the water system to the co-op.
Vizzutti responded she did not think so because the water system would become a public utility owned, operated, maintained, and billed by the municipality.
Vizzutti also suggested the project may be paid for as a local improvement, meaning only those users would pay.
Vizzutti suggested talking to Alberta Environment about increasing the water licence allocation application; to municipalities that have put in water systems; and checking the Municipal Government Act to see if the project could be done as a local improvement.
Council then tabled making a decision until further information is obtained.