REGINA -- The Saskatchewan government is moving ahead with engineering studies on proposed Lake Diefenbaker Irrigation Expansion.

Regina’s Clifton and Associates will be the lead firm for preliminary engineering design. The work will include geotechnical studies and environmental consulting.

“We are delighted to be a part of this legacy project that will further reinforce Saskatchewan’s position as a leader in global food security while building on the vision made possible by the creation of Lake Diefenbaker a half a century ago,” Wayne Clifton, Clifton Associates Ltd. CEO, said.

“It will keep 100 people busy for the next 18 months or longer to complete this phase of the work, so while we are in COVID recovery, we are very thankful to have this project coming in our door,” added Clifton.

The $4 million project will be the most expensive ever undertaken by the Government of Saskatchewan.

Lake Diefenbaker was created in the 1960’s with the potential of irrigating half a million acres of farm land. Only one fifth was realized before further development was abandoned. 

“I would call this the first big step forward in this. It’s a huge step for a huge project. This is going to be a massive long term project,” said Minister of SaskBuilds Jim Reiter. 

A funding arrangement has yet to be reached between the province and Ottawa on the 10-year, $4 billion project. Former Regina MP Ralph Goodale was instrumental in getting the project to this point. 

“To broaden the economy of the province to give us that durability, that diversity, that fundamental economic strength has never been fully realized. So finishing the dream, finishing the vision of those early pioneers from 50, 60, 70 years ago, that’s really a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Goodale.

First Nations groups have expressed concerns about the environmental impact downstream on sensitive areas like the Saskatchewan River Delta. That will be considered in the engineering study.

The project will double the amount of irrigable land in Saskatchewan, adding 460,000 acres.

The engineering studies are expected to take up to 18 months. The government says consultations with First Nations and other stakeholders will begin in the near future.