Springbank reservoir plan angers Bragg Creek residents

Many people in Bragg Creek are angry with the Alberta government's decision to build a reservoir at Springbank instead of a dry dam at McLean Creek.

Off-stream diversion less expensive, better for environment than McLean Creek option, officials concluded

Marina Cooke stands in front of the business she used to own that was destroyed in the 2013 flood. She calls the Alberta government's decision to build the Springbank reservoir instead of the dry dam at McLean Creek "a devastating blow to the community." (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

The Alberta government's decision to build a reservoir in Springbank instead of a dry dam farther southwest at the confluence of McLean Creek and the Elbow River has raised anger and concern in the community of Bragg Creek.

"We just don't count, because McLean Creek would have done the same thing to save Calgary," said Marina Cooke, who lost her restaurant and lounge in the flooding of 2013.

Environment Minister Shannon Phillips announced the $297-million plan on Monday. She promised it will include other local flood mitigation projects farther upstream on the Elbow River aimed at protecting Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows from future floods.

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

A canal will 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.

However, Rocky View County Reeve Margaret Bahcheli is not convinced the provincial plan will protect Bragg Creek from future flooding.

The county did a detailed cost-benefit analysis before the election, and it wasn't clear that Springbank was a better choice, she says.

"And we were concerned, our engineering department took a look at it, they expressed grave concern, so we hired a third party engineering company who also said, 'look there's just not enough here to make a capital investment decision of this magnitude, it really requires a bit more work'." Bahcheli said.

The reeve has raised her concerns with the minister, who told her she had enough information to move ahead.

"So I guess what you are talking about maybe differences in perception on what's required in capital project analysis, and at what point the political decision enters the overall decision making process," Bahcheli said.

She wants the analysis of the projects made available to the public and if Springbank is truly proven to be a better project based on costs etc., then she's 100 per cent behind it, she says.

To announce,'it's mission accomplished,' at this point is confusing,- Margaret  Bahcheli , reeve, Rocky View County

"I'm sympathetic the budget is coming out, and everybody including us would love to see a line item in it for this project, or any kind of flood mitigation project for Calgary would be great, but to announce, 'it's mission accomplished' at this point is confusing," she said.

Landowners in Springbank say they plan to fight the project.

Ryan Robinson, whose family owns the historic Val Vista ranch that will be wiped out by the project, says today's announcement is bad policy.

"I think it ignores risk to the upstream communites," he said. "I think it is requiring the huge human cost in Springbank, and so we …  share the interest of Calgary in wanting good flood mitigation for Calgary. All they did was pick up the Conservative plan right where it left off.

The scope of the project takes out homes, ranches and an equestian centre," he said, warning that buying the land won't be quick or easy

In the meantime, Cooke, who's now working at a local gas station, continues to fight to be heard and to get insurance payouts for overland flooding and loss of revenue.

"It's kind of like, you know, 'here just be happy with what you got, now be quiet and go sit in the corner.'"

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


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