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Proposed biodigester project near High River, Alta., has residents wanting it snuffed out

A proposed biodigester project and digestate pond on private Rimrock land west of High River, Alta., is receiving pushback from Foothills County neighbours and town residents.

Tidewater Renewables announced in October it had secured a 20-year lease with Rimrock Renewables to sell up to 525,000 gigajoules of renewable natural gas to FortisBC, to power more than 5,000 homes in British Columbia.

But the project, which is awaiting approval from Alberta Environment and Protected Areas (AEP), is being criticized for odours it will create.

“We bought this place because we can look at the mountains and I was very active in the anti-coal mine stuff,” said Benita Estes, whose rural property is located about 200 metres from where the facility is expected to be built.

“I love the mountains and this really has made it so that we will no longer be able to go outside and enjoy our properties.”

Estes and several other Foothills County and High River residents are banding together to eventually appeal a decision made by AEP, if it is approved this spring.

They blame the county for waiving a development permit last year that allowed Rimrock Feeders to begin consultation, the digging of dirt and moving forward with the next steps of the project.

Owners of Rimrock Feeders purchased the land 5.5 kilometres west of High River in 2019, and expanded the feedlot to accommodate 35,000 heads of cattle.

Residents in town say westerly winds have made the community smell continuously for years.

“We were in heaven before Rimrock bought it,” said High River resident Joanne Vandonzel.

“The previous owners were very considerate. They would spray at night after 11 o'clock.

“Everybody that's in that way, we'll get a whiff of it, that's for sure, and it's putrid.”

In its application for approval to the province, Rimrock says the project will be designed to receive 80,000 tonnes per year of livestock manure from its feedlot operation (Rimrock Cattle Company) and 60,000 tonnes per year of off-farm organic food resources in the Calgary area.

That could include things such as fish waste, oils, animal waste and compostable products.

However, Rimrock’s application says the digester tank and biogas upgrader design will have capacity to handle up to 100,000 tonnes per year of livestock manure and up to 80,000 tonnes per year of off-farm organic food resources, pending the outcomes of ongoing liquid digestate reuse studies.

Sourced from the Highwood River, approximately 333,000 cubic metres of water per year will be required for the operations.

“When I cannot sit out on my patio when I have company because I'm too embarrassed of the smell and it's not just one day or an occasional smell, it's continuous and today it's a feedlot smell,” said High River resident Elizabeth Bouillet, who has lived in the community since 1979.

“High River is known for its stink, and that's not what we want to be known for. We don't get the energy that they're (Rimrock) going to sell. We don't get any profits out of it, nor do we want any. We just want our community back.”

The company is awaiting approval before beginning construction from the province. That is expected in late February or March.

If approved, construction could commence in March with operations to begin this October.

CTV News contacted Tidewater Renewables and the owners of Rimrock Feeders but did not receive a response.

Delilah Miller, councillor for Foothills County Division 2, also did not respond to a request for comment.

Alberta Environment and Protected Areas acknowledged it had received our request for comment on the status of the application, but no response has been provided. Top Stories

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