Some Bowness residents upset over impending flood berm

Some landowners in Bowness say they should have been given more explicit and earlier notice about a berm planned along the Bow River as the city engages in community consultations on the specifics of the project.

The project is part of city-wide efforts to mitigate flooding after 2013 disaster

Hundreds gathered Tuesday to learn more about a proposed berm along the Bow River in Bowness. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

Some landowners in Bowness say they should have been given more explicit and earlier notice about a berm planned along the Bow River as the city engages in community consultations on the specifics of the project. 

Hundreds gathered at the community hall on Tuesday night to learn more and express frustration.

The flood mitigation project is meant to protect homes along the river as well as the interior of the community and could rise to two metres in some backyards. 

"It was a really big surprise and I think we could have avoided the surprise if we had been advised by our councillor that this was happening," said Patti Peck, who lives along the river on Bow Crescent N.W.

"We didn't find out until after the city had approved the plans to go ahead with the berm. So we weren't consulted in the process or didn't have time to learn about it while the process and the engineering data was being collected and all of that."

The berm has been on the books since at least March of last year, as reported by CBC News, and the report recommending it was approved by council in the spring. 

'We're trying to be transparent'

Peck said she supports flood mitigation but wants more information on whether the berm is the most efficient and cost-effective way to go.

Ward Sutherland, the councillor for the area, said he thinks the city is being honest with residents. 

"We're trying to be transparent, and we said upfront we've done all the research and the experts have said we need a berm, so the berm's going to happen," he said. 

"But what it is going to look like will be up to the landowners and the city and that's why it's Stage 1 of what we're going to do in the next year and a half in the design."

He pointed to Inglewood and its grass-covered natural berms as one example of what the barrier might look like. 

"People are obviously upset because some people don't want a berm, but we need to protect the city," said Sutherland. "We have an obligation as city council to do the flood mitigation."

2013 flood not so rare

Frank Frigo, lead river engineer for the city, said residents should not be complacent about another flood event. 

"So 2013, to many people, may seem like a one-off. It may seem like something that occurred and might not occur again. But absolutely our scientific understanding of this is that is not the case," he said to the crowd on Tuesday night. 

"Bowness and all the communities along the Bow are very much prone to flood risk because of that mountain catchment upstream and the limited storage available upstream."

He said almost $300 million in private assets are at risk in Bowness alone. 

With files from Sarah Lawrynuik