The provincial governments of Alberta and Sasktchewan in Canada have abandoned plans to build an irrigation and hydroelectric dam near the Alberta-Saskatchewan provincial boundary, after a study by Golder Associates of Calgary said costs associated with the Meridian Dam would far outstrip the benefits.

The report found that the capital costs involved in building a dam on the South Saskatchewan river near Empress, in southeastern Alberta, as well as constructing irrigation systems, could range from US$2.3B to US$3.5B. The report estimated that the project would result in an estimated net loss of US$1.3B to US$1.7B due to costs associated with irrigation water pumping, and for abandoning oil and gas resources in the area to be flooded.

As a result of the consultant’s findings and report, both governments agreed that economics alone made the dam unfeasible, even before environmental impacts are taken into consideration. Golder’s study did not address the environmental impact of the dam, but concluded that as the dam was not economically viable, there would be no point conducting an environmental-impact study.

The reservoir impounded by the dam was meant to provide water supply to drought stricken areas in southeastern Alberta.

Conservationists were worried that this reservoir, which could have flooded a 145km reach of the river upstream of the dam, would destroy prairie habitat and threaten some endangered wildlife.

The Department of National Defence and Environment Canada had also expressed concern that the dam would flood a portion of the Canadian Forces Base in Suffield.