POP: Reinstatement of the Water Appeal Board

POP: Yes
Res #: POP 6-18M
Number: 6
Year: 2018
Midterm: Yes
Expired: No
Responses Received: Yes
Departments: Water Security Agency

WHEREAS the Water Appeal Board has been disbanded and RMs and producers do not have an appeal mechanism in place to which they can appeal Water Security Agency rulings;

BE IT RESOLVED that the Water Appeal Board be reinstated as an appeal mechanism for RMs and producers to appeal Water Security Agency rulings.

Responses From: Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure

October 6, 2022

The Water Appeal Board (WAB) was established in 1984 to hear appeals stemming from the formal complaint process. The Water Appeal Board Act established the Water Appeal Board, which received and acted on appeals from decisions, orders and actions of the Water Security Agency (WSA). 

Under its initial form and intention, the WAB was established to keep disputes out of the Courts. The process was designed to be accessible to agricultural producers without the need for lawyers or technical experts. The WAB would review the SaskWater work and the hearing findings and issue a decision. 

Overtime, the WAB process became increasingly expensive and time consuming for all impacted parties and did not always resolve the water management issues as intended. WSA would often have to commit tens of thousands in external resources to the formal complaint process, and then commit more resources to support the WAB process. Parties were often compelled to bring lawyers and external technical experts to support their positions. The process mimicked a court process without established court procedures. A complaint process could take up to five years from filing an appeal to the final WAB decision. 

The Water Security Agency Act was amended in 2017 to remove the formal complaint process and abolish the appeal to the WAB. Appeals for drainage works under The Water Security Agency Act are now handled through the Request for Assistance (RFA) program (technical review committee) and, if necessary, the Court of King’s Bench. The last appeal the WAB completed was on November 3, 2016. 

The RFA program was intended to simplify the complaint process and focus on water management outcomes. The RFA process focusses on whether there are works present and whether the works have approvals. If there are no works, the RFA is dismissed. If works are present, the works require approvals. If there are no approvals, then the owners of the works are required to obtain approvals or close (decommission) the works. In this process, there are relatively few things to appeal. 

Appeal mechanisms in Manitoba, Alberta and North Dakota were also investigated but were not deemed to be streamlined or appropriate for Saskatchewan. 

At this time, the province does not intend to reinstate the WAB; however, WSA is willing to collaborate more closely with SARM to establish a better understanding of the current RFA process and, if possible, to remove any constraints identified. 

The Honourable Jeremy Cockrill – Minister of Highways and Infrastructure, Saskatchewan Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure