Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo
|Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo|
|Census division||No. 16|
|- Specialized municipality||April 1, 1995|
|Name change||August 14, 1996|
|Office location||Fort McMurray|
|• Mayor||Melissa Blake|
|• Governing body|
|• CAO||Marcel Ulliac|
|• Total||63,637.47 km2 (24,570.56 sq mi)|
|• Density||1.0/km2 (3/sq mi)|
|See Demographics section for population derived from municipal censuses.|
|Time zone||MST (UTC−7)|
|• Summer (DST)||MDT (UTC−6)|
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is a specialized municipality located in northeastern Alberta. Formed as a result of the amalgamation of the City of Fort McMurray and Improvement District No. 143 on April 1, 1995, it is the second largest municipality in Alberta by area. It is home to vast oil sand deposits, also known as the Athabasca Oil Sands, helping to make the region one of the fastest growing industrial areas in Canada.
Until the Alberta electoral boundary re-distribution of 2004, the municipality was divided between the provincial electoral districts of Fort McMurray (the community itself) and Athabasca-Wabasca (the surrounding area). The re-distribution amalgamated the municipality into a single electoral district covering the entire municipality. As a result, the new Wood Buffalo electoral district became the most populous such district in Alberta.
Communities and localities
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) is in the lower basin of the Athabasca River watershed and Fort McMurray is the largest community on the banks of the river.[notes 1] Local rivers include the Hangingstone River, Clearwater River and Christina River, a tributary of the Clearwater River.
The Hangingstone River drains an area of 1,070 km2 (413 sq mi), which is dominated by muskeg, and flows into the Clearwater River just upstream of the Athabasca River at Fort McMurray. The river often experiences high flows in the spring during snow melt, during heavy rainfall events and when ice jams occur during spring ice break. The RMWB warns citizens of the potential for sudden flash floods "especially in populated areas adjacent to the Athabasca River, Clearwater River and Christina River." Water levels have been monitored by the Water Survey of Canada since 1970 (WSC station 07CD004). During the spring months there is increased monitoring of the "Clearwater River to the south of the urban service area to provide warning of an ice break" and the "Athabasca River upper basin, local river levels, precipitation and overall weather patterns."
The Clearwater River,[notes 2] designated as part of the Canadian Heritage Rivers System, flows 187 km (116 mi) from its headwaters in Lloyd Lake in northwest Saskatchewan into northeast Alberta before joining the Athabasca River at Fort McMurray. "The lack of significant oil sands developments means that the Clearwater River can be used as a baseline river system to provide information on the variability and characteristics of natural systems."
June 2013 floods
By June 12, 2013 after many days of heavy rain, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo declared a state of emergency. They organized evacuations from some areas and placed others under boil water advisories as local waterways, such as the Hangingstone River, rose to dangerously high levels 30 kilometres south of Fort McMurray, causing the closure of Highway 63.
|Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo population breakdown 
|Urban service area (Fort McMurray)||70,964||1,980||—||72,944|
|Rural service area||3,667||525||39,271||43,463|
|Total R.M. of Wood Buffalo||74,631||2,505||39,271||116,407|
The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo's 2012 municipal census reported a population of 116,407 in the municipality, which includes permanent and non-permanent populations of 74,631 and 41,776 residents respectively.
In the 2011 Census, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo had a population of 65,565 living in 23,077 of its 28,000 total dwellings, a 27.3% change from its 2006 population of 51,496. With a land area of 63,637.47 km2 (24,570.56 sq mi), it had a population density of 1.0/km2 (2.7/sq mi) in 2011.
The population of the Regional Municipality (R.M.) of Wood Buffalo is 101,238, which includes 66,748 permanent residents counted by the R.M. of Wood Buffalo's 2007 municipal census and a shadow (non-permanent) population of 34,490. Within, the total population of the Fort McMurray urban service area is 64,773 (62,589 permanent and 2,184 non-permanent residents) and the rural service area is 36,465 (4,159 permanent and 32,306 non-permanent residents).
In 2006, the R.M. of Wood Buffalo had a population of 51,496 living in 20,505 dwellings, a 24.3% increase from 2001. However, this population has since been revised by Statistics Canada to 51,924. Using the pre-revised Statistics Canada data, Wood Buffalo had a land area of 63,342.89 km2 (24,456.83 sq mi) and a population density of 0.8/km2 (2.1/sq mi) in 2006.
In 2001, the R.M. of Wood Buffalo had a population of 41,466 in 14,793 dwellings, a 17.8% increase from 1996. On a surface area of 63,400.51 km² it had a density of 0.7/km2 (1.8/sq mi).
The determination of the R.M. of Wood Buffalo's population has twice been subject to controversy since 2007. First, Statistics Canada's March 2007 release of the population and dwelling counts from the 2006 census reported an overall population that was 18,000 residents fewer than the number of permanent residents the municipality counted in its own census conducted in 2006.
Second, the R.M. of Wood Buffalo published a total population of 103,334 as a result of its 2008 municipal census, which included both its permanent and non-permanent (shadow) populations. Alberta Municipal Affairs rejected the census result as the total population was generated through the use of extrapolation instead of door-to-door census enumeration.
Visible minorities and Aboriginal population
As of the 2006 census, nearly 11% of residents identified themselves as visible minorities and more than 10% of residents identified as Aboriginal.
|Visible minorities and Aboriginal population|
|Canada 2006 Census||Population||% of Total Population|
|Visible minority group
|Other visible minority||50||0.1%|
|Mixed visible minority||90||0.2%|
|Total visible minority population||5,615||10.9%|
|Total Aboriginal population||5,365||10.4%|
Nearly 85% of residents identified English, and 3% identified French, as their first language. The next most common languages are Cree, Spanish and Arabic at 1.2% each; Tagalog and Chinese at 0.8% each; Dene/Chipewyan and Urdu at 0.6% each, and German at 0.5%.
Wood Buffalo is home to almost 2,000 recent immigrants (arriving between 2001 and 2006) who now make up more than 3% of the population. About 21% of these immigrants came from India, while about 10% came from each of Pakistan and the Philippines, and about 9% came from Venezuela, and about 8% from South Africa, about 6% from China, and about 3% came from Colombia.
More than 80% of residents identified as Christian at the time of the 2001 census while almost 17% indicated they had no religious affiliation. For specific denominations Statistics Canada counted 15,880 Roman Catholics (37.4%), 4,985 Anglicans (11.7%), 4,225 for the United Church of Canada (9.9%), 1,730 Pentecostals (4.1%), 1,195 Baptists (2.8%), 965 for the Salvation Army (2.3%), 900 Lutherans (2.1%), 690 Muslims (1.6%), 350 Latter-day Saints (0.8%), and 320 Presbyterians (0.8%).
The municipality's current mayor is Melissa Blake, who has served since 2004. Its first mayor upon its creation in 1995 was Guy Boutilier, who had previously been the mayor of Fort McMurray and was subsequently elected as the region's provincial MLA; Doug Faulkner served as mayor from 1997 to 2004.
In the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, the municipality was served by the electoral district of Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo until 2010, when a second district, Fort McMurray-Conklin, was created due to population growth. Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo is currently represented by Mike Allen, while Fort McMurray-Conklin is represented by Don Scott. Both were elected as members of the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party in the 2012 provincial election, although Allen currently sits as an independent following a controversy which resulted in his expulsion from the Progressive Conservative caucus.
The municipality is located in the federal electoral district of Fort McMurray—Athabasca, which is currently represented in the Canadian House of Commons by Brian Jean of the Conservative Party of Canada.
- The Athabasca River originates in Jasper National Park. It is fed by the Athabasca Glacier within the Columbia Icefield, at an altitude of approximately 1,600 metres (5,200 ft). The river travels 1,231 km (765 mi) before discharging through the Mackenzie River system into the Arctic Ocean through the Northwest Territories. Its course is marked by rapids, impeding navigation southwest of Fort McMurray.
- Clearwater river is named because of its "unspoiled, clear-water river in a pristine isolated "wilderness setting of spectacular beauty."
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- Hangingstone River Hydrological Profile (Report). Hydrology of the Athabasca Oil Sands Region. Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program RAMP. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
- "Floods? Are You Ready?" (PDF). Wood Buffalo. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
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- "Fort McMurray floodwaters wash out roads, power. Some residents are moved out, others ready for evacuation order". CBC News. June 12, 2013.
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- , Community Profiles from the 2006 Census, Statistics Canada - Census Subdivision
- , Aboriginal Peoples - Data table
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