About Drinking Water Supply Due to Proposed Intense Livestock Operation
by Sue Peterson
The Rural Municipality (RM) of Rudy has approximately 420 taxpayers, representing around 200 farms. Early in 2010, it became public knowledge that an Intense Livestock Operation (ILO) from Alberta had brought up land within the RM and had submitted an incomplete proposal to RM council for approval of a 36,000 head operation, which would be the largest ILO in Saskatchewan.
Concerned citizens soon became aware that there is virtually no environmental assessment required for such a venture. The ILO is proposed to be situated approximately 3.5 miles from the South Saskatchewan River, and 500 meters from the M1 canal supplying many rural communities with their only source of drinking water.
In addition, the ILO would require substantial amounts of water, depleting Lake Diefenbaker which supplies an estimated 80% of Saskatchewan residents with their drinking water. Cathy Holtslander, of Beyond Factory Farming calculated that if manure from this ILO is disposed of with the most lenient of provincial government recommendations, then it would require an area larger than the city of Saskatoon to spread manure. Stuart Thiessen, owner of Namaka Farms from Alberta who submitted this initial proposal, has purchased many other areas of land in this, and adjacent rural municipalities. Other ILO producers from Alberta have also brought land in the South Saskatchewan River Valley. Hence, Citizens for Sustainable Development (CSD) is rallying support to oppose the development of Saskatchewan’s own feedlot alley.
An initial report commissioned by Saskatchewan Agriculture, via the University of Saskatchewan in 2002, cannot be substantiated under a Freedom of Information request. However, it identified the South Saskatchewan River Valley as the prime area to attract ILO producers to relocate from Alberta. Since 2002, Saskatchewan Agriculture has actively courted Stuart Thiessen and other ILO producers from Alberta, touring them to potential farmers willing to sell land in the river valley, as identified in Stuart Thiessen’s statement in a recent legal appeal.
CSD is a group of concerned citizens from within the RM of Rudy and surrounding affected communities, especially the town of Outlook and the village of Broderick. To date, farmers in the affected area have committed financially to legally oppose this first ILO proposal: they have hired Terry Zakreski to launch a legal appeal. Initially, the Appeal board was found to be in a conflict of interest, a replacement appeal board was hand-picked by the RM council and administrator. Not surprisingly the Appeal Board decision was not in favour of the opponents. CSD has now launched a legal appeal of that decision. To date, approximately $50,000 has been committed to lawyers to oppose this project. Following extensive legal advice, CSD expects this case to take years and go to federal and/or supreme court, before a ruling will be made in favour of opponents. The RM council has also incurred substantial legal fees defending their decision and expects to incur further substantial costs.
Ironically, even if eventually a legal decision is ruled in favour of opponents, and in a best case scenario with the RM being held responsible for all legal costs, that will only mean those costs have to be obtained from tax payers within the RM. This small group of farmers is carrying the financial, emotional, and environmental burden of challenging the archaic system which allows a handful of rural councilors to make such uninformed and politically-biased decisions, which will ultimately impact all of Saskatchewan.
On March 22, 2011, World Water Day, CSD together with the Safe Drinking Water Foundation (SDWF) organized webinars to focus on the issues surrounding the proposed ILO. Many communities gathered to inform and inspire local people to get involved with an educated mind on the topic. The SDWF arranged for four prominent speakers, including Maude Barlow as the guest speaker. The SDWF coordinated all speakers and technical aspects and recordings of these webinars can be viewed at SDWF website: www.safewater.org and go to Webinars and on Citizens for Sustainable Development website at http://citizendev.org/. More Saskatchewan residents need to inform themselves of the potential impact this first feedlot will have on their drinking water, both quantity and quality, how it will open the doors for Saskatchewan’s own feedlot alley, and the impact for future generations.
Sue Peterson has volunteered for many years for the Safe Drinking Water Foundation (www.safewater.org) and is a member of Citizens for Sustainable Development (CSD) (http://citizendev.org/) as she is a concerned resident in the RM of Rudy, living downstream of the ILO and the town of Outlook on the South Saskatchewan river.