PUBLISHED: 07 November 2023

St. Mary River Irrigation District Projects Overview

The following is a complete list of all projects included in the St. Mary River Irrigation District (SMRID) under this program. There are 29 pipeline modernization projects, one structure rehabilitation and one shared reservoir project.
Note that in August of 2022, SMRID amalgamated with the Taber Irrigation District (TID). For clarity, the TID projects are included below and identified with a tag in parentheses after the project name. Some of the projects are being phased over multiple years. The total estimated cost for the combined SMRID and TID program is $221.8 M.

Pipeline Projects

All pipeline modernization projects are scheduled for completion by 2027/2028. The proposed schedule of projects is detailed in the tables below. Approximately 210 km of canal will be replaced with buried PVC pipelines, which will result in significant water savings and efficiency gains through reduced seepage, evaporation and the elimination of tail-out losses. Approximately 57,500 ac of farmland are served by these systems.
PVC pipelines have an expected lifespan in excess of 80 years and the assets will be incorporated into the District’s long-term Asset Management plan.
The remaining construction is being phased over 5 years from 2023/2024 to 2027/2028 with projects grouped by area (West SMRID, Middle and East). Where possible, the District will aggregate smaller projects into larger bid packages as volume discounts can sometimes be achieved by tendering construction projects in this fashion.
Construction is being tendered to local contractors through a prequalification process prior to the bid packages sent out.
Accounting for tailout, evaporation and seepage, it is estimated that the district will save on average 31,500 ac-ft per year from these projects.

Table 1. Completed Projects 2020 to 2023

 Project NameProject DescriptionCost Estimate
Eight Mile LateralPipeline$3,100,000
Cameron Lateral Pipeline (phase 5)Pipeline$2,000,000
West Medicine Hat Lateral 2, (phase 1)Pipeline$9,250,000
Sauder Chute ReplacementStructure Rehabilitation$10,700,000
Whoop-Up LateralPipeline$5,850,000
Main Canal 7Pipeline$2,340,000
Jail Road LateralPipeline$3,276,000
Chin 2-2Pipeline$1,950,000
West Medicine Hat Lateral 31Pipeline$5,525,000
West Medicine Hat Lateral 38Pipeline$2,600,000
Cameron Lateral Pipeline (phase 6)Pipeline$5,000,000
Chin 4/Chin 5Pipeline$5,148,000
North Burdett Lateral 5Pipeline$2,340,000
Bow Island Lateral 10Pipeline$19,656,000
Bow Island Lateral 22Pipeline$5,525,000
North Fincastle West Pipeline (TID)Pipeline$3,200,000

Table 2. Ongoing Modernization Projects (2023/2024 Completion)

Project Name Project DescriptionCost Estimate
West Medicine Hat 2, (Phase 2)Pipeline$19,000,000
South Medicine Hat Lateral 3Pipeline$9,170,000
Sauder Reservoir Lateral 34Pipeline$7,805,000
Lateral M Big Bend Pipeline (TID)Pipeline$7,820,000
Lateral 1B Barnwell (TID)Pipeline$1,006,926

Table 3. Planned Modernization Projects (2024/2025 Construction)

Project Name Project DescriptionCost Estimate
Horsefly 6Pipeline$975,000
Yellow Lake 8, 9, 10, 10A (phase 1)Pipeline$12,285,000
Big Bend Main Pipeline, phase 1 (TID)Pipeline$10,220,992
Bow Island Lateral 31APipeline$1,300,000
Bow Island lateral 32Pipeline$1,300,000
North Lateral – BaczukPipeline$1,950,000
Chin 2 – Ext 1Pipeline$650,000

Table 4. Planned Modernization Projects (2025/2026 Construction)

Project Name Project DescriptionCost Estimate
Yellow Lake 8, 9, 10, 10A (phase 2)Pipeline$12,285,000
Cameron Extension (concrete)Pipeline$9,750,000
North lateral – Sec 13-10-21Pipeline$650,000
West Medicine Hat 10/13 (phase 2)$7,312,500
Big Bend Main Pipeline, phase 2 (TID)$10,220,992

Table 5. Planned Modernization Projects (2026/2027 Construction)

Project NameProject DescriptionCost Estimate
SMRID Grassy Lake ProjectPipeline/Canal rehabilitation$12,285,000
West Medicine Hat 10/13 (phase 2)Pipeline$9,750,000
Big Bend Main Pipeline, phase 3 (TID)Pipeline$650,000

Total Cost of all SMRID/TID modernization projects = $221.8M

Sauder Chute Spillway and Modernization Project (Completed Spring 2022)

The Sauder project replaced an existing cast-in-place chute spillway system that was constructed in 1954 and was in a deteriorated state. The spillway was enlarged to better accommodate larger flood events and a new automated spillway gate and control system was added. The enlarged gate system and controls enhance SMRID’s water management and reduces spill by having improved levels of control at higher water levels.
Sauder Reservoir is located approximately 21 km southwest of the City of Medicine Hat and is an important off-stream storage reservoir for the eastern part of the SMRID. The primary service spillway for the reservoir is the Sauder Chute, located on the left abutment of the Sauder Main Dam. The chute was constructed with the Main Dam in 1954 and the inlet channel was improved in 1981. A bridge carries Township Road 121A over the inlet channel, which was enlarged as part of the project, requiring the bridge to also be replaced.

Figure 1. Site Overview

Flow into the chute is controlled at the head of the inlet channel by the inlet structure equipped with an overshot gate to control flow down Sauder Chute. The original design capacity of the chute was 32.3 m3/s at the reservoir design flood elevation of 804.65 m. The proposed replacement spillway is a cast-in-place chute structure with a conventional USBR Type Ill stilling basin.

The Southern Regional Storm Water Management Master Plan was spearheaded by the MD of Taber completed in conjunction with several of the local municipalities in the Drainage area (MPE, 2014). Based on recommendations from the Master Plan and a 2020 Dam Safety Review, the replacement structure was designed for a higher capacity of 75 m3/s to allow passage of flood flows from the SMRID Main Canal upstream. The higher capacity required a wider replacement structure as well as an expansion of the inlet channel and the grouted rip-rap overflow weir was replaced with an undershot gate to achieve a better level of water management control during flood events.

Schedule: This project was completed in the 2021/2022 construction season. 

Cost Estimate: The total cost of all components of the replacement project was estimated at $13 M and came in slightly underbudget at $10.7 M.

Figure 2. Construction in the summer of 2021 by BYZ Enterprises
Figure 3. Sauder Chute Spillway near completion, February 2022
Figure 4. New undershot control gates in place.
Figure 5. Replacement of bridge over approach channel

Reservoir Projects

Chin Reservoir Expansion and Modernization project

This project will expand Chin reservoir, which is an existing off-stream reservoir on the St. Mary main canal in Section 23 TWP 7-RG 15 – W4M approximately 30 km southeast of the town of Taber. In addition to increasing water storage, an important aspect of the project is modernizing the existing ancillary reservoir structures for aligning with provincial dam safety regulations and increasing the flood handling capacity of the reservoir. This includes construction of a new east dam, replacement of the existing cast in place outlet at the west dam, replacement of Chin chute inlet spillway and construction of a new outlet spillway on the east dam. The West dam will also have to be raised and the road over the crest of the dam likewise will also have to be raised.
The reservoir capacity will be increased by raising the height of the existing dams and re-locating the east dam by approximately 10 km, which adds approximately 100,000 acre feet of storage with a flooded area of approximately 1,000 hectares required for the new section.
Increased storage at Chin reservoir will benefit the Raymond and St. Mary River Irrigation Districts with increased water security, which have a joint agreement for management and maintenance costs on the Main canal well as shared ownership of 3 small Hydro power facilities on the St. Mary Main canal.
First nations consultation and environmental assessments are underway, as well as discussions with affected landowners. Engineering and geotechnical studies are being undertaken concurrently. A Historical resource impact study has also been commissioned. The current land use within the reservoir footprint is agriculture, with all land privately owned.


Construction will begin once the design is completed, the land is acquired, all regulatory requirements are met and approvals are received. Completion of the project will take up to four years once construction commences. 

Cost Estimate 

Preliminary estimate: $130 M.