By Cole Parkinson
Exploration of grants for climate change has led the Municipal District of Taber to a $125,000 two-year financial commitment from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
For the next two years, the M.D. of Taber will see $125,000 a year for adaptions to local climate change impacts, particularly flooding and drought.
“The FCM grant is $125,000 a year, so $250,000 in a two-year cycle and that was what we applied for and have been awarded. Our goal with that is actually climate adaption,” explained Kirk Hughes, director of planning and economic development.
“In the last couple of years, we have seen some increases of not only the drought conditions in this area but certainly the flooding conditions. That is adverse in the sense that some of those are 100-year events. Looking at attracting things like the plant protein initiatives, even our regular supporting businesses in the area, we needed to figure out a way to manage our water. Water security is a major issue, we have lots of water in the M.D. and certainly, the irrigation districts do a fantastic job regulating the water to ensure we have the capacity to increase production and maintain levels. Going forward, our concern is what does the next five to 10 years look like? The weather conditions we have experienced have changed in the last decade. We have data to support some of the changes in drought and flooding conditions.”
The grant was first brought forward to M.D. council during a meeting last May and council had carried a motion to allow staff to draft a letter for the grant. In mid-February, it was announced the M.D. had been successful in their grant application which has set in motion a process to complete a diverse study over a two-year period.
“Over a two-year program, our goal is to have these studies indicate to us flood drainage which should prevent these adverse conditions we have faced in the M.D. Looking at drought in regard to water security, retaining water with some efficiencies for irrigation and working with irrigation districts to find better ways to handle our water,” said Hughes. “We have to be ready to adapt and be on top of it. This is actually a proactive measure to address the water security issue we may potentially have. We will be working with some consultants and the irrigation districts to push forward on everything from master drainage plans, to prevent large scale flooding we dealt with (last) spring. Figuring out ways to potentially expand our water capacity and certainly our water usage storage capacity. So it is going to be a complex study.”
Once the two years are up, the M.D. will not be able to reapply for the $125,000 funding opportunity.
This means they are hoping to maximize their plan as much as possible over the two years.
“Our goal for after the two years is we would have enough information to mine further ideas going forward. It (FCM grant) will provide us with the opportunity to study things, push forward on technical studies and come back to say what are we doing to address these issues and what are the issues,” added Hughes.
While originally it was talked about hiring one person to complete the work, the idea shifted to spreading the money around to staff already with the municipality.
“With the grant, you could do two things — offset the amount of money you are going to spend on already hired employees or you could hire a separate person to do it. We actually reached out to a few local universities who are looking at some of the university programs and it seemed more economically feasible. We could hire one person and hope that person does all of this work in a two-year span or we could allocate that money over a number of other employees, bringing in university students to assist with this project. It’s a win-win in the sense university students are getting credit and we get a group of diverse group of people with massive amounts of skill that we couldn’t hire with just one person,” said Hughes. “The economic spin-off of that for M.D. of Taber ratepayers is that they are not paying for an extra employee, we are actually utilizing our employees more efficiently.”