Premier Scott Moe announces Lake Diefenbaker Irrigation Project to move forward in 2025

A major irrigation project in Saskatchewan that has been talked about for years is moving forward on expansion.

During his address to delegates at the SARM Convention Thursday afternoon, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced work on the first 90-thousand acres of the Lake Diefenbaker Irrigation Project is expected to start in 2025, following engagement with stakeholders and Indigenous rights holders on engineering and design over the next 12 to 14 months.

Moe says drought over the last few years have “made it abundantly clear” that irrigation is key to improve crop production and the value of crops produced.

The cost of the first phase of work is $1.15-billion to be shared between the province and any farmers willing to participate in the project, as Premier Moe said they’re not waiting for the federal government for help.

When asked how the province and producers who are willing to participate is going to pay for the project, Moe said those details are being worked out and hopes Ottawa will eventually become a partner.

“The important thing is to get a step forward and get the project started and then as producers come online we’ll be able to have a formula ready so they can participate.” Moe said to reporters.

A follow-up question was asked about using funds through the Canada Infrastructure Bank, and while that may be an option Moe believes it isn’t any more advantageous than using money the province has or utilizing loans. He says the Infrastructure Bank has funded at least one project in Canada.

Agriculture Minister David Marit says in a news release over 58-thousand acres of irrigation has been developed since 2020, the largest growth since the 1980s. “The Lake Diefenbaker Irrigation Project will position Saskatchewan to meet the needs of a growing population across the globe. We continue to encourage the federal government to come to the table in a more meaningful way and be part of this important project as it moves forward.” Marit said.

SARM applauds the provincial government for moving ahead with the irrigation project, and president Ray Orb says “this is the start of a journey to bring Saskatchewan and Canada much-needed food and economic security.”

Orb was also asked how much farmers would be willing to pay for the irrigation project and he too wasn’t sure. Orb wonders if the federal government is still committed to the project.

“We assumed at the beginning of this project…it was actually (Ralph) Goodale at the time who brought forward that idea and we thought the federal government was going to be there and we questioned as recently as last fall to the federal minister of agriculture and deputy minister of agriculture why they wouldn’t want to contribute as they would to any other infrastructure project across this country.” Orb said.

More from