Four smaller dams and reservoirs in southern Alberta will be upgraded as a result of last year's flood.

The province plans to spend more than $100 million on the Bassano Dam, the Travers-Little Bow Dam, the Bullhorn Wasteway and the Taylor Coulee Wasteway. The upgrades are aimed at protecting the dams from erosion or washouts by increasing their ability to spill excess floodwater.

"Water management infrastructure is critically important to communities in southern Alberta and need to remain in working condition during an emergency situation," said Robin Campbell, Alberta's environment and sustainable resource development minister. "These upgrades ensure these structures are as prepared as possible for future floods."

There were concerns last year the Bassano Dam might fail because of high water levels.

That dam is 100 years old and barely survived the flood, says Eastern Irrigation District chair Bob Chrumka.

Alberta is home to roughly 70 per cent of the total irrigated farmland in Canada and getting the projects done will be beneficial for both flood control and the farmers who rely on the water supply, says Campbell.

"We want to get all of these done as quickly as possible so we'll have to sit down with the irrigation district, we'll come up with a construction firm and engineers who will do the work for us and we'll get moving on it right away," Campbell says.

The upgrades will focus on three key projects:

  • Completing the combined emergency spillway and connecting canal at the Travers-Little Bow Dam southeast of Vulcan. The Little Bow Dam will also be raised and its irrigation outlet replaced.
  • Constructing a new, concrete emergency spillway at the Bassano Dam to replace the existing earthen emergency spillway. The Eastern Irrigation District owns the dam and will share the cost of the project with the province.
  • Replacing the existing wooden emergency spillways at Taylor Coulee Wasteway and Bullhorn Wasteway near Cardston with larger, concrete spillways.

It's not yet clear when the upgrades will be completed.