OLDMAN RIVER DAM

The Oldman dam was constructed in 1992 in response to the many Droughts experienced by Southern Alberta farmers.  Pictured here is the main spillway, just North of Pincher Creek Alberta.
        After the many droughts, such as that experienced by southern Alberta farmers in 1982, and the lack of water resources for local communities, the Government of Alberta in the late 1980's began the development of the Oldman River dam, to bring the valuable resource of water to farmers and citizens of Alberta. The Oldman River Dam Project began about ten years ago. It regulates downstream flow, by storing water in an onstream reservoir for use in dry periods. Government officials at the time said, the dam was not only to regulate waters for current farmers but also It will allow another 174,000 acres, or at least 340 new farming units. (Main Stream Magazine, 1992) in Southern Alberta. It's vision was large, to compensate farmers with long needed water and to make the region a fertile new source of agriculture to Alberta. Government officials heralded the project as a life giver to the people of southern Alberta!
 
 
 
Advantage #1 Diversification of crops

    Previous to the construction of the Oldman river dam, the amount of crops were limited to those which could go long periods of time without very much rain. This mostly include various types of grains, mostly wheat. But since the construction of the Oldman river dam, many different and diverse crops have been able to be grown in Alberta with a great amount of abundance.  Southern Alberta is more particularly known for its diversification of agriculture. Wheat grains are grown all over Alberta, beets are grown in Taber, vegetables such as corn and peas are grown in the province. In fact according to an expert of agriculture Canada, the amount of diversification of major crops grown in Alberta has diversified five fold in the past ten years, with the opportunity to grown many other Crops. The main crops grown in southern Alberta are:
 

Table of Crops

    An interesting statistic to note. Irrigated lands in Alberta account for 12% of the agricultural output even though irrigated lands are only 5% of the total farmed land in Alberta. Thus it is easy to see the significant advantages of water projects such as the Oldman river dam, can do for the economics and sustainability of farmers in Southern Alberta. More types of Crops can be grown and the yield of the crop can be significantly increased with the storage of run off water from the headwaters of the Oldman river!
 
 
 

Advantage #2: Production of power

    The second major economic advantage seen by the proponents of the Oldman river is the benefit of power production. In southern Alberta our electricity used to be carried over large distances to be brought to our cities and homes. Power was likely transported from British Columbia and our major centers such as Calgary and Edmonton and was even imported from our American neighbors to the south. The advent of the Oldman river dam meant that Southern Albertans had a local source of power production. With the capability of the Oldman river dam to produce power (Hydropower link)  Southern Albertans would be less susceptible to those wintertime brown outs due to the added power source from the dam. In all the Oldman river dam is capable of producing 25 Megawatts of power (Alberta Resource Development). A considerable amount of power for Southern Albertan's.
 

                                                                       Advantage #3: Recreation

    The Oldman river has opened the door to a new source of recreation for the outdoor enthusiasts. This is in the form of a giant sized reservoir...
Welcome to Oldman Dam Reservoir park. The reservoir that is usable to the recreationists is 15,000m x 3000m. That is 4.5 million meters squared. The provincial park that surrounds this area, that is 4000 acres, is the largest provincial recreation park in the province. Wind surfers, from around the world, come to take advantage of southern Alberta's warm windy weather, in fact, the park is world renowned for its wind sufing. Surrounding the reservoir is critical wildlife habitat which includes native prairie grassland, natural wetlands and close to 50 artificially created wetland areas. Nesting areas are protected during critical nesting periods.  Wildlife viewing opportunities are bountiful. The fisherman has a lot of fishing opportunities on the reservoir as it is often stocked with large amounts of Rainbow, Brown Trout, and has natural pike. 
Camping is also plentiful here with over 1000 campsites. In the past few years, property surrounding the reservoir fringes, have become hot commodities. If you get the chance, the Oldman Reservior Park  is a great place to spend a summer weekend!
 
 
 

The Controversy!

    Active resistance on the Oldman River Dam came from a group of Peigan Natives, the Peigan Lonefighters Society, who in August 1990 began to divert the river using an excavator to render the multi-million dollar dam useless.  The claim was simple, the government of Canada was intruding on sacred Native land, land owned by the Blackfoot Nations. According to Milton Born with a Tooth, "the Oldman River is located in Blackfoot Nation's territory, something we have always taken as being within our own domain. We all grew up by the river, and that's how the river has a personal attachment to myself and the people. So that's what drove us to do what we did on August 3, to let the people know we still had this connection to the river." Though resistance to the Oldman River Dam has been pacified in the past few years, Peigans still claim that reservior land is their own.

    Another part of the controversy has to due with the environmentalists. The environmentalists call themselves, "Friends of the Oldman River Society."  They formed in the early 1990's, over the environmental concerns in the construction of the large scale Oldman River Dam. They note that the construction of the Oldman River Dam required an environmental assessment impact, and this was not conducted at all, by Ralph Klein's government. An environmental assessment impact is a neccessity according to the "Navigable Waters Protection Act", where it would be determined if its construction would have any notable environmental impacts on this region. The Friends of the Oldman River strongly felt that the construction of the Oldman River Dam, would severely alter and damage local riparian biomes, wildlife habitat, and aquatic life in down stream from the dam. A environmental impact assessment was later conducted by the government, and found the dam to have no significant environmental impact; but the Friends of the Oldman River Society amongst others regard it with much suspect.