Planning for a Sustainable Economic Future in Pincher Creek

 

Shell Canada’s Waterton Complex, a natural gas production and processing facility located in rural southwest Alberta, has been a major driver of the economy of Pincher Creek and the surrounding region for over 50 years.  Through direct, indirect, and induced employment, as well as the procurement of goods and services and payment of taxes, the development and ongoing operation of the Waterton Complex has generated and continues to generate significant economic value in local and regional communities.  The income created by the Waterton Complex enables municipalities to provide infrastructure and other services, reduces the property tax burden for other ratepayers, and supports many families and businesses.

Recently, Shell advised the Town and MD of Pincher Creek about its current development plans, and noted that, notwithstanding several new wells that are proposed to be drilled over the next few years, as natural gas reserves within the Waterton field are depleted in the coming decade, plant downsizing and closure are expected to occur within ten to 15 years from today. 

The loss of this important economic driver, whether through gradual downsizing or complete plant closure, is expected to result in major changes to the economy of Pincher Creek and the surrounding region.  Those economic changes could also result in important social changes in the community, including, for example, reduced demand for housing, health care, education, and other services, loss of social cohesion as individuals and families move away seeking alternative employment, reduced capacity of municipalities to deliver infrastructure and services as tax revenues fall, greater pressure on social support services from individuals and families under increasing financial and social stress, and so on. 

While the closure of the Waterton Complex may be inevitable, serious adverse economic and social/community impacts need not be.  Proactive stakeholder engagement and dialogue, based on factual information and analysis, can enable the community to prepare itself and take action now and in the coming years ahead of planned closure to ensure a smooth transition to a sustainable economic future.

SASCI has commenced a project to facilitate that transition.  The project comprises two main phases.  The first phase - which has just begun - will be an analysis of the economic and social/community impacts that could be experienced in local and regional communities following the closure of the Waterton Complex.  The product of Phase I will be a fact-based, publicly available report describing existing and potential economic and social conditions in the community before and after the closure of the Waterton Complex.  The study results will be presented to the community and stakeholders, probably in the spring of 2017.

In the second phase of the project, which will begin in the fall of 2017, SASCI will engage the community and stakeholders in facilitated dialogue to identify, assess, and select actions that can be taken for and by the community to move the community towards a sustainable economic future.  These actions might include economic diversification initiatives, measures to avoid or reduce adverse impacts, and capacity-building programs.

Through this project, we hope to spur community-driven action to increase the economic and social resilience and long-term well-being of the community.

Everyone is welcome to participate in this project.  During Phase I, SASCI will be engaging key stakeholders to obtain relevant input data for the socio-economic analysis and to solicit views on potential impacts.  During Phase II, we hope to broadly engage individuals, businesses, community service organizations, economic development and social service agencies, interest groups, municipal administrators and elected officials, and other stakeholders - anyone who has a stake in the economic and social future of our community.  If you are interested in participating, please contact the SASCI office and let us know!   

 

This project has been made possible by the generous financial support of Shell Canada, the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, and the Town of Pincher Creek.