In the fall, we announced, as part of our Investment and Growth Strategy, that we had partnered with the Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) and 8 irrigation districts to expand and modernize Alberta’s irrigation infrastructure. At $815 million, it’s the largest one-time investment in irrigation in the province’s history, and it will transform up to 208,000 acres and create over 8,000 jobs.
Today, I had the privilege of visiting the Chin Reservoir which is being expanded as part of this funding.
It’s a tremendous undertaking, with the St. Mary River, Raymond and Taber irrigation districts leading the efforts. Now in the design engineering phase, the project’s goal is to increase the Chin Reservoir’s water storage capacity, benefitting even more irrigation districts. Right now, it holds about 168,000 acre-feet of water which is equivalent to 86,000 Olympic size swimming pools.
We, along with the CIB and the 3 leading irrigation districts, are investing up to $133 million, with Alberta’s government contributing 30%.
Alberta has more than 1.7 million irrigated acres, with more to come. The industry contributes up to $3.6 billion every year to the province’s GDP and supports about 56,000 jobs.
As part of the Alberta government’s Investment and Growth Strategy, Agriculture and Forestry developed targets to build on the agri-food sector’s existing strengths to capitalize on opportunities for growth:
- expand irrigation infrastructure to grow primary agricultural production and support a diversified value-added processing industry
- attract more than $1.4 billion in new investment and create 2,000 new jobs by 2023-2024
- grow primary and value-added agricultural exports to a projected $16 billion by 2023, a 37% growth relative to 2019
We’ve already passed one of those goals – we’ve created more than 2,000 jobs 2 years ahead of our target.
This project is one of the first irrigation expansion projects, and I look forward to its coming phases and how it benefits Southern Alberta’s farmers, livestock producers and all the communities that rely on the reservoir.
Devin Dreeshen served as Minister of Agriculture and Forestry from April 30, 2019 to November 5, 2021.