City to benefit from federal support of provincial projects, mayor says

Greg Dionne says wildfire reduction and highway improvement projects could lead to spinoffs that will help the city

Ralph Goodale makes an announcement in Prince Albert on April 23, 2019 (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald).

While it might mostly be other communities that benefit directly from funding announced earlier this week, Prince Albert’s mayor says the projects unveiled by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale earlier this week should benefit the city as well, particularly the funding to reduce wildfire risk.

The federal government is putting $40.2 million towards a pair of projects to reduce wildfire risk. One project will seek to clean up SaskPower’s right-of-ways, while the other will work with communities to clean up risky areas of the forest.

“It benefits us in quite a few ways, even the (communities funded) in the far north,” Dionne said following Goodale’s announcement.

“They’re still going to need services and supplies, and we are the service centre for northern Saskatchewan, so we’re going to get a spinoff from quite a few of those projects, not just those around us.”

The same goes for Highway 55 rehabilitation. The provincial and federal governments are each contributing $12.5 million to mitigate funding concerns and rebuild the road to take primary weights.

“When you go across the bridge and turn right you’re on Highway 55,” Dionne said.

“People dont realize what a corridor that is. It doesn’t just move traffic away from us; it also moves it towards us. We also supply shopping for those areas.”

However, Dionne said, the benefits go on just providing services for families and workers.

“The biggest word that always frightens me at this time of year is the word ‘evacuation.’ Anything the government can do to keep people at home and safe — because when you uproot them and bring them to our city, we treat them as good as we can within our facilities, but at the end of the day, they’re worried,” he said.

“Is their house burning, when are they going home? It’s just not the same. I applaud both levels of government for stepping forward and helping the 85 communities in northern Saskatchewan.”

City working to reduce wildfire risk in Little Red

Prince Albert is one of the 85 communities that will be able to access funding to clean up old or dead trees and underbrush as part of the province’s effort to reduce wildfire risk. The project will clean up areas at risk of wildfire near communities over the next eight to nine years. Priority communities have already been mapped, and work will begin with the highest priority areas, moving to lower priority spots over time.

One of Prince Albert’s priorities is the Nisbet Forest and Little Red River Park. The city is already working on plans to reduce wildfire risk in the park, Dionne said.

‘We have an extensive plan,” he said. “Little Red is under threat. It was under threat partly due to floodwaters we got from Anglin Lake a few years ago, which brought a lot of trees down.”

The riverbanks have quite a bit of deadfall, the mayor said, so the city is putting a plan together with both levels of government to clean that area.

“That’s our biggest threat, and it’s within our civic boundaries,” he said. “It has to be protected.”

Other areas of priority are Nordale and Hazeldell, which are adjacent to the forest.

Mayor meets with minister

Before Goodale had a chance to stand up and introduce six new funding agreements, the long-serving federal MP and cabinet minister had dinner with Dionne for an hour and a half.

“We exchanged lots of information, talked about our infrastructure needs and problems, and the demands we’re looking for from the government,” Dionne said.

“It was a very positive meeting, and I do believe we’ll be hearing some announcements shortly from the federal government about the city of P.A.”

Those conversations included topics such as the new hospital and recreation facilities for the city.

“It was a very positive meeting,” the mayor said. “We need a new aquatic centre and rink. We did talk about that, and he told me there are six or seven ways we could apply for funding. We’ll be looking at that option as well.”