An environmental impact study for a controversial flood mitigation project in Springbank west of Calgary is getting underway, the province announced on Wednesday.

The Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir was approved last fall as a way to protect Calgary from the kind of flooding that ravaged the city in 2013.

But the project is strongly opposed by a group which represents affected landowners in the Springbank area.

Calgary flooding

The Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir is intended to protect Calgary from flooding of the magnitude that ravaged the city almost three years ago. (Canadian Press)

In response to the province's announcement, the group renewed its opposition to the project, saying they are only allowing government officials onto their properties to conduct the assessment because they believe science is on their side.

"Notwithstanding the firm opposition of Springbank residents to the proposed Springbank dam (SR1), landowners negotiated access because of their firm belief that environmental assessments will demonstrate that SR1 is bad public policy," the release said.

"We are confident that the assessments will prove that the land in question is a hotspot for wildlife, and has most of the same environmental and social issues that were deemed to make McLean Creek unfavorable."

Eric Lowther is a councillor in Rocky View County. 

Eric Lowther, councillor in Rocky View County.

Rocky View County councillor Eric Lowther says many of his constituents feel left out of the process. (CBC)

He says the county is late coming to the table because it was left out of the process.

"It was our own constituents that brought this to our attention," Lowther said.

"And when we became aware of what was going on it was unanimous agreement on council that we needed to be proactive and send a strong statement to the premier and to the other counties in the province to get them on board to support us."

An alternate plan for a dry dam at the confluence of McLean Creek and the Elbow River was rejected on the basis that it would be more expensive, harder to build and cause more damage to environmentally sensitive areas.

The Springbank reservoir would be located about 15 kilometres west of Calgary, south of Highway 1, east of Highway 22 and north of Highway 8.

springbank reservoir

A artist's rendering of the off-stream reservoir project in Springbank. (Government of Alberta)

A canal would carry water from the Elbow River to the reservoir during flood conditions and release it back to the river in a controlled manner when the flood subsides.

The dam's opponents also reject the provincial government's claim that extensive stakeholder consultations have taken place.

"To date, elected officials from this government have not consulted with Springbank landowners and have, in fact, refused several meeting requests," the group said.

Construction of the reservoir is expected to be completed in 2018 at a cost of more than $250 million.