Water Valley area residents have expressed shock and deep concern over
recent activities in Winchell Coulee.
Portions of the south-facing slope of the Coulee have been clear-cut
of trees. The beaver dams at the western end appear to have been dismantled
and dredged to drain the wetlands. Soil, trees and other debris have
been pushed into the Coulee to create road access to the north-facing slope.
Flow rates in Stoney Creek have been affected. Local farmers and other
landowners have found Stoney Creek muddy and flowing erratically.
Contaminants such as diesel fuel have been been detected.
Alberta Environmental Protection, in response to a complaint
by downstream agricultural operations, have investigated and found
A permit is required for the development activities currently underway
and planned for the Coulee under Section 11 of the Water Resources Act.
If these activities continue without a permit the landowner will be in
violation of the Water Resources Act.
In addition, Alberta Environment has determined that activities such as
draining portions of the Coulee, warrant widespread public notification
and consultation. This notification has not occurred. It must occur
before a permit will be issued.
The land in question is registered in the name of Robin and Shelly Stewart
of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta.
In December ‘96 Mr. Stewart applied to the County of MountainView to develop
a 300 lot commercial campground in the Coulee. The community has been told
that Mr. Stewart is planning a year round facility including a large
scale snowmobile/RV base for touring on grazing lease lands surrounding
Winchell Lake Drained for Campground?
The County of MountainView has not yet approved redesignation of the land
from Agricultural to Recreational land use. They have not approved the
campground/snowmobile facility. However, plans to drain portions of Winchell
Coulee suggest that the campground may be going ahead regardless of the
necessary approvals and community input.
If all of this comes as a surprise – it shouldn’t. Winchell Coulee residents
have fought to preserve the water resources, wildlife habitat and natural
beauty of the Coulee. We are now facing an important turning point in this
What is at Stake?
Many of us rely on drainage from Winchell Coulee via the Stoney and Little
Dogpound creeks for agricultural and other commercial purposes. Alteration
of this drainage may have a significant negative impact on these landuses.
The Coulee is a wildlife habitat. The area is a refuge for bear, moose,
deer, elk and many species of birds including the great blue heron, the
common loon, the sandhill crane and the great horned owl.
According to Trouts Unlimited the spring fed waters of Winchell lake make
it one of the best fly-fishing spots for rainbow trout in the province.
Success of the regular fish stocking program may be jeporidized by altered
What Happens Next?
Alberta Environment has asked the landowner to apply for a permit to continue
his activity in the Coulee.
To obtain the permit he must advertise in the local newspaper - the
MountainView Times - for two consecutive weeks.The notice must indicate
how and where residents can voice their concerns about his activity.
What Can I Do?
You can do the following this week:
Give this newsletter to 3 friends/neighbors. Encourage them to call/write.
Share your letters with them.
Watch for an ad/notice in the MountainView Times about roadbuilding and
drainage activity in Winchell Coulee.
Call/Write about your concerns as directed in the notice and call at least
3 friends/neighbors and encourage them to do the same.
What Do I Say When I Call/Write?
To Alberta Environmental Protection and Provincial Politicians:
Provide your name and say you are calling/writing about current development
activity at Winchell Lake near Water Valley, Alberta
State your interest in the activity (area resident, downstream landowner,
recreational user of Winchell Lake/Coulee, general environmental
Focus your comments on water related issues. This is critical because
the Water Resources Act can be used to control activity in
the Coulee. Remember that there is a significant amount of water flowing
in and out of the Coulee everyday and this water is used in many different
ways by the community.
To County of MountainView:
Describe current water quality and flow problems and potential problems.
Make a case for preserving Winchell Lake as a sport fishery for the area.
Wildlife habitat and the importance of water in the habitat should also
Describe the activity in the Coulee. Most councillors won’t know about
it. Invite them to visit the Coulee.
State your concerns about the clear cutting, road building and drainage
of the Coulee and the proposed campground.
Please find the time to express your concerns.
If Alberta Environment and the County of Mountain View do not hear from
you, the permit application will go unchallenged.
If the permit is approved, you can expect
that the campground/snowmobile trail
will also be approved.
Thank you for your support.
We need your help to protect the Coulee!
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