A project that will help the town of Okotoks and Foothills County secure a long-term water supply will receive a provincial grant of $15.9 million, Alberta Minister of Transportation Prasad Panda announced Wednesday.
The project, a water pipeline that will feed from where the Highwood River meets the Bow River into water treatment facilities in Okotoks and Foothills County, will receive the funding through Alberta’s Water For Life program.
“It’s still a little surreal that we’re here. I always knew we would get here, but we’ve had lots of stops and starts,” said Okotoks Mayor Tanya Thorn, who was elected to the top job last November but sat on town council for the previous eight years.
“To be here is momentous for all of the people that have worked on this and our community.”
Okotoks, about 15 kilometres south of Calgary, has faced water supply challenges for over a decade. Council put limits on its population even after a cap was removed.
“It’ll be very rewarding to change the storyline,” said Thorn.
The primary water source for Okotoks will continue to be the Sheep River, Thorn said, while the pipeline “will serve a growing population here as a supplemental water source.”
Mayor Tanya Thorn says it will be rewarding to change Okotoks’s reputation as a town encumbered with water problems. (Terri Trembath/CBC)
She said the grant money means that instead of 16 per cent of the project’s eligible costs being covered by the province, 45 per cent will be.
“The pipeline will provide reliable access to clean drinking water and support future growth both in important industries and homes in the region,” said Panda.
The pipeline is set to be operational in August 2025.
Attracting economic growth
Chelsea Besuijen, president of the Okotoks and District Chamber of Commerce, said the completed project will help support the growth of local business and attract new entrepreneurs and businesses.
“We’ve definitely had a reputation for water restrictions and you can’t water your lawns and those types of things. So kind of defeating that reputation will be a really great thing to increase people to wanting to come here.”
That this solution took so long to become viable is a sign that “we should do better in prioritizing essential projects like this going forward,” said Panda.
He announced funding for other water and infrastructure projects throughout the province as well.
The $15.9 million for the Okotoks and Foothills County project is part of $36.2 million granted through the Water for Life program, funding nine projects to supply clean water to residents in rural Alberta.
Panda said a further 24 water infrastructure projects will be funded with $22.5 million through the Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Partnership. Those projects include a new water treatment plant in Canmore and a wastewater lagoon upgrade in Valleyview.
Lastly, the Strategic Transportation Infrastructure Program is granting $27.4 million to municipalities to support 78 local projects throughout the province, including roads, bridges and airports.