Calgary looks to mitigate flood effects in city rivers while waiting for upstream plan

While the city waits to hear about major flood mitigation projects upstream of Calgary, it intends to forge ahead with plans to minimize flood risks along its rivers.

Construction could take 8 to 10 years, depending on funding availability

Calgarians look out over a flooded Calgary Stampede grounds and Saddledome in June 2013. The city is now looking at options to mitigate flood damage along rivers that flow within the city. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

While the city waits to hear about major flood mitigation projects upstream of Calgary, it intends to forge ahead with plans to minimize flood risks along its rivers.

The proposed measures would affect both rivers that flow through the city.

For the Elbow River, the city is already proceeding with higher gates on the Glenmore Dam and supporting the province's plan to develop an off-stream storage reservoir in Springbank, Alta.

A report that went before city council's utilities and corporate services committee Wednesday suggested two gravel bars in the river in Mission should be removed. If that work is done, it would enhance the additional capacity at the dam and the Springbank measures when it comes to protecting communities along the Elbow.

Property easements needed

For the Bow River, an assessment done for the city concluded a new reservoir upstream of Calgary is required to provide adequate flood protection. As well, the report called for "low-height barriers" to be constructed along the river in Bowness, downtown, Sunnyside and Pearce Estates-Inglewood.

Most of the barriers would be located on city land, but easements are needed with about 90 privately-owned properties. 

The first riverfront barrier, which would add about one metre of flood protection, would go in along the downtown side of the Bow River between the 10th Street and Centre Street bridges. 

There is also a proposal to improve flood protection for Hillhurst-Sunnyside by separating the stormwater system in the area from higher elevation communities further north. 

Water from the North Hill communities adds to the water woes in Sunnyside during heavy rain events, causing overland flooding.

Peggy McDougall, who lives in Sunnyside, is encouraging the city to get on with greater protection for river communities. She wants the berm on Memorial Drive increased in height by at least 1.1 metres between Third Street and Ninth Street N.W. She also wants the stormwater separation project to go ahead immediately.

McDougall pointed out that a new berm for the Calgary Zoo is nearly done but other areas still need attention.

"The zoo property and animals are now protected and we would like the property and people paying tax in Sunnyside to be protected to the same level, please," said McDougall.

The committee supported all the projects but the construction timelines may take between eight to 10 years, depending on funding from the city and the province.

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

Coun. Druh Farrell wants the city to be clearer with the provincial and federal governments that Calgary's top need is flood protection.

"We've got this long list. The province is wondering: 'What's your priority?' Mine — and I hope all of council — the priority is flood. Number one. And then we can move to others," said Farrell.

The approved items will go to city council next month. 

City officials say a report on a potential new reservoir on the Bow River west of Calgary will go to the province soon.

Eleven sites were examined and four have been short-listed as a potential reservoir site.