Alberta buys 465 acres for Springbank dam project despite controversy

The land was purchased from a local family and will involve moving a heritage building from the land to the future site of the family's ranch.

Purchase from ranching family includes moving a heritage building to new site

An artist's rendering of the Springbank reservoir project. (Government of Alberta)

The provincial government announced Tuesday it's acquired 465 acres of land needed for the Springbank reservoir but won't say how much it spent. 

"I've been asked not to talk about actual numbers and prices because we don't want disclosure of that information to affect negotiations with other landowners," Transportation Minister Brian Mason said at a press conference.

"We still have a significant amount of land that we need to acquire for this project."

According to the government, it now has 20 per cent of the land it needs for the project west of Calgary. 

The land was purchased from a local family and will involve moving a heritage building from there to the future site of the family's ranch. 

"Our family can move forward and focus on the future of our operations in Rocky View County," said Ryan Robinson in a news release. 

"This agreement creates the certainty our family needs to ensure a future for our children and grandchildren, as well as for the many employees of our operation."

Opposition to the dam

The project, once complete, will allow floodwater from the Elbow River to flow into the dry dam rather than inundate the Glenmore Reservoir in Calgary. 

It has been met with opposition from some landowners in the area, the Tsuut'ina First Nation and, most recently, Rocky View County. 

Opponents want the government to consider a dam in McLean Creek, but that proposal has already been rejected. 

Lee Drewry, a spokesman for the advocacy group DontDamnSpringbank, said in a statement issued Wednesday that the province's purchase represents a "small fraction" of the required land and represents "little progress."

"The project would still create a moonscape in the middle of the most beautiful part of southern Alberta. It would still create a potentially toxic silt field that will blow west into Calgary. It would not store water for drought and fire. It still faces mountainous regulatory hurdles and broad-based opposition that is even stronger now," Drewry said.

In statement from Tsuut'ina Chief Lee Crowchild, he said he understands why the Robinson family sold their property. 

"The Robinsons have become close friends with many Tsuut'ina people, in no small part because of our shared opposition to the proposed Springbank dam," he wrote. 

"Their family has been under intense pressure for years now. It's not easy to have your home and history constantly under threat."

Crowchild said the nation remains opposed to the project and says it has not consented to it moving forward. 

Mason said the province continues to engage the Tsuut'ina and is committed to meaningful consultation as laid out by the Supreme Court in the Trans Mountain decision. 

Project under review

Mason also thanked the Robinson family. 

"I want to thank them very much. We know it's a hard decision and we know that this project is affecting some families that have real roots in that community," he said. 

"I regret that we need this land, but we need this land and it's a very important project for one million-plus Calgarians."

The $432-million reservoir would require about about 3,870 acres (1,566 hectares) of land and is currently under review by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. 

The province has said it hopes to acquire the needed space through negotiations with landowners, but, if necessary, will expropriate land for the project so it can be partially complete by 2021 and fully complete by the end of 2022. 

Clarifications

  • This story was updated a day after publication to add comment from the advocacy group DontDamnSpringbank.
    Jan 30, 2019 1:38 PM MT