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Protesters show up to public meeting for Rimrock Renewables's proposed Biodigester

A public meeting held Wednesday at the Foothills County council office was greeted by several dozen protesters in opposition of a proposed biodigester project and digestate pond on Rimrock Renewable’s land west of High River, Alta.

Rimrock Renewables LP, in partnership with Tidewater Renewables Ltd. and Korova Feeders Ltd., is proposing the development be built adjacent to Rimrock Feeders.

During the meeting, landowners heard from Tidewater, which addressed concerns over safety, environment, odours and proximity to the community of High River, already dealing with smells from the Rimrock Feeders feedlot.

“I’ve been a farmer and have been around livestock my entire life and I’ve never smelt anything like this,” said protester Grant Cooke.

Protest organizer Julie Allan says she has been a resident of High River since she was three years old.

She’s worried this will drive investors out of town, dropping the value of homes.

“The stench and the foul odours of the feedlot now is (such that) you can’t even go in your backyard. You can’t even sit on your deck,” said Allan.

“It’s ruined my quality of life and I am terrified what the Biodigester is going to do.”

Questions from residents were not taken in person, rather submitted by email prior to the meeting.

Representatives from all three companies, and those working with Tidewater to push this project to approval did not attend in person, rather over Zoom.

County Reeve Delilah Miller says there has been a lot of misinformation on the project, hoping the applicants clarified some troubles for concerned residents.

“We are hopeful that it will mitigate a lot of the smells for the area and the town of High River as well,” said Miller.

Tidewater 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.

Director Denny Boisvert told the meeting the design will ensure proper ventilation to limit odours.

“(We will) vent the building up and away from the surface as much as possible,” he said.

“Not vent out the sides. It’s to bring any odour from the manure-handling building up and (as) away into the winds as possible.”

Boisvert adds these projects will only increase with time, with many companies looking for green initiatives.

“With the carbon-credit system in place, there are large companies like FortisBC, Energear and BP that are purchasing the credits from these facilities and that’s why so many are being built or announced here in Alberta,” said Boisvert.

“With many more to come in the next five, 10 and 20 years.”

The project, which is still awaiting approval from Alberta Environment and Protected Areas, has been criticized for odours it will create.

Residents have blamed the county for waiving the development permit last year, allowing Rimrock to begin consultation and move forward with the project.

The proposed 14-hectare digestate pond is designed to provide seven months of storage plus storm water.

Tidewater says it will be lined using a high-density polyethylene liner and be drained on a regular basis to support crop fertilization in the area.

In March and September, the pond will be drained from its 2.3-metre depth.

On average, it will sit around 30,000 to 150,000 cubic metres throughout the year.

High River residents have complained about the lingering smell from the facility already, and believe the proposed biodigester will make that problem worse.

Benita Estes lives within 200 metres of the proposed development.

She says she is not convinced the company will alleviate her concerns.

“We do not want this is our backyard. We don’t want it here. It doesn’t belong here,” said Estes.

“It’s an industrial facility, in an industrial application with AEP, and belongs on industrial land.”

Rimrock Feeders currently operates a feedlot for 35,000 head of cattle.

One air-quality advisor working on the project with Tidewater says the facility will reduce smells.

“There’s a 42 per cent reduction in odour with the proposed facility,” said Cody Halleran, with Horizon Compliance Group.

“It’s like almost removing 15,000 head of cattle from the Rimrock feedlot.”

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, the design has the 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.

The company is awaiting provincial approval before commencing construction, with a decision expected in late February or March.

If approved, construction could start right away with operations set to begin in October. Top Stories

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