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Solar Development near Frank Lake

July 27, 2022

Frank Lake is designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) and has received international recognition for its significance to nesting and migrating birds. Historically, the lake levels fluctuated greatly, with flooding in some years and others where the lake was dry. In the 1980s-1990s, Ducks Unlimited worked with industry and government to control the water levels and stabilize the water supply. Frank Lake is now a permanent wetland, with treated wastewater from High River and the Cargill Meat Packing Plant maintaining water levels.

According to IBA Canada, the wetland is the most important in southeastern Alberta for breeding waterbirds. The area attracts an abundance of birds and wildlife, with eBird data recording over 200 species, and is popular with birders, photographers, and other recreational users.

Recently, Elemental Energy has proposed building a solar farm to the northeast of Frank Lake and within the IBA. The proposed Foothills Solar Project would cover 1600 acres. Solar farms are known to cause waterfowl mortality, and the Wildlife Directive for Alberta Solar Energy Projects states under Best Management Practices that a solar project should not occur within 1000m of a wetland-based Important Bird Area. AWA is concerned the construction of this solar farm could have devastating effects for the wildlife populations relying on Frank Lake.

AWA was contacted by the Blackie community and local landowners opposing the development and connected the landowners to legal representation. Several members of the community have petitioned against the development and registered as intervenors in the case, and CWS has also written to express their concerns. In June 2022, Foothills Solar GP Inc registered the case with AUC. A Notice of Hearing for the proposed solar farm was announced July 26, 2022.

AWA’s Statement of Intent to Participate is available here.

We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in. For it can be a means of reassuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.
- Wallace Stegner
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