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Saskatchewan government to start work on $1.15B irrigation project

The Saskatchewan government is gearing up to kickstart a massive $1.15 billion project aimed at expanding irrigation across the province, a move that Premier Scott Moe believes will finally bring to fruition a long-held aspiration. 

Moe made the announcement on Thursday, revealing plans for the commencement of design work and consultations with land users regarding the Lake Diefenbaker expansion initiative. Construction is slated to commence next year, marking a significant stride in bolstering agricultural capabilities in the region.

The primary objective of the project is to unlock additional water resources from Lake Diefenbaker, enabling the irrigation of an additional 364 square kilometers of land, thus opening new avenues for farming endeavors.

"Our government is thrilled to embark on this pivotal journey towards establishing one of Canada's most sustainable food and economic security endeavors, promising substantial benefits for future generations," expressed Moe in a press statement.

Highlighting the economic prospects, Moe underscored the potential for billions in economic gains and the creation of thousands of employment opportunities. He emphasized a shared financial responsibility, with costs to be borne jointly by the province and participating producers.

Speaking to reporters, Moe outlined plans to devise a collaborative framework wherein producers could actively engage and contribute to the program's costs, ensuring equitable participation as the project progresses.

Lake Diefenbaker, originally developed in 1967 to cater to various water needs including irrigation, has, according to Moe, remained underutilized over the years. He expressed hope for federal assistance in funding the expansion, stressing the urgency to proceed independently in the absence of federal support.

Addressing environmental considerations, Moe assured ongoing environmental assessments and consultations with Indigenous groups to gauge the project's impact. However, concerns have been raised by some Indigenous and environmental groups regarding potential ecological ramifications, particularly on wildlife habitats.

With climate scientists predicting hotter and drier summers in Saskatchewan due to climate change, the significance of water as a precious resource cannot be overstated. Moe emphasized the project's role in ensuring water security for agricultural production and community welfare amidst evolving climate dynamics.

Aaron Gray, Chairman of the Saskatchewan Irrigation Projects Association, hailed the initiative's potential to enhance crop value and foster statewide benefits. He echoed Moe's sentiments, underlining the commitment of irrigators to contribute towards global food security and bolster Saskatchewan's prosperity.

As the Saskatchewan government gears up to embark on this ambitious irrigation expansion endeavor, it signifies a significant leap towards harnessing the region's agricultural potential and fortifying its resilience against future challenges.