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Tornado debris in fields prompts call for government action

Mountain View County council also calls for government to reinstate the well drilling equipment tax
Northern Tornadoes Project's preliminary map of the July 1 tornado path with length of 15.3 kilometres.

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY - In the wake of the Canada Day tornado north of Carstairs, the county is asking the minister of Agriculture and Irrigation to develop best practices for the cleanup of agricultural lands following natural disasters.

During the recent regularly scheduled council meeting, council approved a number of one-page ministry summaries calling for action by various government departments.

The summaries were developed by the intergovernmental communications committee and will be sent to the relevant departments prior to the Rural Municipalities of Alberta Association fall convention.

The July 1 tornado destroy several homes and heavily damaged houses, farm buildings, vehicles and other things over a large tract of agricultural land north of Carstairs. The cleanup efforts lasted more than a month and involved hundreds of volunteers, businesses, county staff and others.

The summary being sent to the minister of Agriculture and Irrigation calls for the minister to “research and develop best practices associated with the cleanup of agricultural lands following natural disasters such as tornados.”

The background note accompanying the summary states that during the cleanup following the July 1 tornado, a significant amount of debris from shattered homes, outbuildings and other things was deposited within agricultural fields of properties that had not experienced any structural damage.

“As producers rely on these crops, many have been unable to properly clean up the debris due to the risk of causing damage to their fields. Others are concerned  about the harvestability of these crops due to the potential of damage to their farming implements.”

In the wake of the tornado, the county has undertaken research on the topic of storm debris in agricultural fields, “but has been unable to identify a path forward for these producers.

“As significant weather events appear to be increasing, it is expected that the impact to producers will also continue to increase, thereby requiring further guidance from the province as to how to deal with these situations in the future.”

Council approved a second summary also related to the aftermath of the Canada Day tornado and its impact on the agriculture community.

The summary calls for the minister of Public Safety and Emergency Service to rename the Disaster Recovery Program (DRP) to “provide clarity to landowners on specific nature of program and the inapplicability of disasters that can be covered through insurance recoveries.”

Following the tornado, the county applied through the DRP and was denied by the province due to the losses incurred by the storm event being largely recoverable through insurance, the summary states.

“Through conversations with the ministry, it was identified that very few disasters have been funded through the DRP outside of overland flooding and some wildfire events. The program created a large amount of animosity and confusion for Mountain View County landowners.”

A third summary approved on Sept. 6 calls on the minister of Municipal Affairs to reinstate the well drilling equipment tax and new well tax.

“Since the decision by the government of Alberta (to suspend the tax in October 2022) Mountain View County has lost out on $1.19 million of revenue, which has been required to be picked up by the remaining taxpayers of the county in order to continue to maintain safe roads in our community, many of which are heavily used by the oil and gas industry,” the summary states.

“As the tax holiday is nearing completion (in 2025) and the government of Alberta has been vocal in their commitment to see the initiative through to the end, the county is requesting that the province ensure that no further extension to the program is approved.”

Council passed a motion accepting the summaries and instructing administration to send them to the appropriate ministries. The summaries are also sent to area MLAs.

In a second motion, council instructed administration to set up meetings with the minister of Environment and Protected Areas, the minister of Red Tape Reduction, and the minister of Agriculture and Irrigation during the upcoming Rural Municipalities of Alberta fall convention.

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