Alberta flood panel pitches $830M in berms, diversions

A provincial advisory panel has come up with a long list of projects it says could prevent future floods like the one that hit roughly 30 Alberta communities last June.

Meeting in Calgary aimed at finding best practices to mitigate future disasters

Flood mitigation panel in Calgary

9 years ago
Duration 2:14
A provincial advisory panel has come up with a long list of projects it says could prevent future floods.

A provincial advisory panel has come up with a long list of projects it says could prevent future floods like the one that hit roughly 30 Alberta communities last June.

The estimated $830-million plan was unveiled today at a provincial flood mitigation meeting in Calgary.

It includes a river diversion around High River, berms on the Elbow and Highwood rivers and a tunnel that would carry excess water from the Glenmore Reservoir underground to the Bow River. 

A flood mitigation panel assembled by the Alberta government is proposing an estimated $830 million in upgrades and projects to help prevent future flood impacts. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Panel member Richard Lindseth says people wouldn't see the tunnel.

"It takes the water and conduits it through what you could really call just a very large storm sewer," he said. "It conduits it approximately 200 feet underground in bedrock." 

Mayor Naheed Nenshi says some of the proposals sounds like science fiction — a tunnel deep under 58th Avenue southwest connecting the reservoir with the Bow River that would prevent flooding in communities below the dam. But he says the proposal might open up other possible benefits.

"Would that mean that we would need a tunnel boring machine, which are very, very, very expensive?" Nenshi asked. "But would once we had a tunnel boring machine, could you use that for all kinds of infrastructure like LRT tunnels in Calgary and Edmonton?"

Nenshi says he would expect that the provincial government will foot much of the cost of mitigation efforts. The province says it will start on the simple measures proposed right away, but will study other bigger projects for costs and implementation.

Premier Alison Redford says she can't afford to wait until after municipal elections on Oct. 21 to get the ball rolling.

"There is work that needs to be done now because it can't be done over the winter to ensure that communities are protected when spring comes," she said. "So while municipal elections are important, there is important technical work that can go on."

Berms could be built in 12 months

Lindseth says if the entire proposal is implemented, it would protect communities from a flood comparable to 2005 and 2013.

"You really could deal with a storm, as long as it was similar in strength and location to the ones we've talked about, and you could bring yourself down to eliminating that degree of volume," he said.

"We estimate that approximately 100 million cubic meters of water would have to be stored or retained in order to mitigate the flooding that we experienced."

He says the berms could be built in 12 months and the diversions constructed in two or three years.

The Alberta Flood Mitigation Symposium brought together experts, community representatives and citizens to talk about the best practices for flood mitigation.

Steps are already being taken in communities such as Medicine Hat, High River and Drumheller, said Flood Recovery Task Force official Andre Corbould.

"We started a month ago, we are not waiting. Some things will take longer than others, but I think a key focus to be done before next spring is to have those pieces of infrastructure in place and the resources like sandbags and different ways of dealing with the flood in place, ready [and] stockpiled," said Corbould.

The keynote speaker at the conference was Scott Edelman, senior vice president of AECOM Water Resources — one of the firms hired by the province to help find ways to protect people from future devastating floods.


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