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Kneehill County boosts company’s land access to 10 years

·3 min read

Kneehill County councillors approved a company’s land access to a water source to 10 years. The company’s request was granted by a 6 to 1 vote of council at their Nov. 30 regular meeting.

Councillors read a report from Director of Infrastructure Mike Ziehr stating Artis Energy’s access agreement was coming to an end in the next few years and they were requesting a new, 10-year agreement.

“Kneehill County has been requested by Artis Exploration to enter into a 10-year agreement to provide both access to and the allowance for water extraction from the Torrington gravel pit site,” stated Ziehr’s memo to council.

“Artis Exploration has requested this longer-term agreement to provide them with some security regarding a water source to aide in planning for their future drilling operations.

“Artis Exploration currently has a similar agreement in place with Kneehill County for land access and the extraction of water that expires in May, 2023.

The proposed agreement will include the Valleyview Colony as an additional grantee as the existing waterbodies extend across current property lines.

“The revenue generated from the sale of the water will be evenly distributed between the County and the colony.

“Water extraction from the Torrington Pit is subject to approvals from Alberta Environment and Parks,” a point which was discussed several times during the meeting.

Ziehr stated Artis was making this request. Coun. Carrie Fobes asked if this new agreement, if approved, took effect immediately and Ziehr stated, “Yes.”

Coun. Debbie Penner asked about the amount of water Artis Energy may take under the proposed agreement, and Ziehr stated it was his understanding Artis Energy was going to request whatever amount of water the provincial law allows.

Coun. Fobes asked if there is enough water there to accommodate that request, to which Ziehr responded that’s Alberta Environment's responsibility to ensure.

County Chief Administrative Officer Mike Haugen stated that the request made to councillors was only for Artis Energy’s access to lands surrounding the water body in question and withdrawal of the water is between the company and Alberta Environment.

Coun. Penner stated, considering the summer of drought Kneehill just experienced, this water body is spring-fed and wondered if approving this agreement would negatively affect other residents.

Reeve Jerry Wittstock reminded councillors the request to Kneehill County was only for access to the land in question, not the water resource, which was Alberta Environment’s responsibility to approve.

Haugen agreed with the reeve, adding that the new agreement allows the county to approve similar land access to other users, but those other users must also have a withdrawal agreement with Alberta Environment.

Coun. Fobes asked if Kneehill County monitors Artis Energy’s access. Ziehr answered that the agreement requires a flow meter which means a record is kept that is reconciled at the end of each year.

Ziehr noted no record is kept of the number of trucks involved, but Coun. Ken King interjected it was his understanding Artis Energy doesn’t use trucks, but rather pumps the water.

At this point councillors asked about possible road use agreements (RUA) if Artis Energy was trucking the water, but Ziehr pointed out Kneehill County’s RUA are mostly for overweight situations and can’t be used for this issue. Ziehr stated he is planning on bringing an updated RUA to council “...with a bit more teeth.”

Coun. Laura Lee Machell-Cunningham stated a 10-year agreement to her seemed like a long time. Haugen responded it is a long time for an agreement, but the water body in question has already been tied up for a long time.

Councillors approved Artis Energy’s 10-year agreement by a 6 to 1 vote, Machell-Cunningham the lone dissenter.

Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review

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