Overlooked Calgary creek gets some spotlight at city hall

An often overlooked Calgary waterway received a bit of attention at city hall on Wednesday. Nose Creek is facing stress due to development along its banks.

Key indicators in the waterway are rated as poor

A pedestrian walks over Confederation Creek, a tributary to Nose Creek, in Calgary. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

An often overlooked Calgary waterway received a bit of attention at city hall on Wednesday.
City council's committee on utilities and corporate services spent some time talking about a management plan for the Nose Creek watershed.

Municipalities that are home to the creek are talking about updating the plan for the first time in more than a decade.

A report submitted to the committee showed water quality in the watershed is rated as fair but a number of key indicators — including nutrients and suspended sediments — are rated as poor.

The Nose Creek is probably the most challenged waterway in our basin.- Mark Bennett, Bow River Basin Council

It notes the creek is home to several types of fish as well as invasive species like crayfish. 

However, due to water quality issues the report states crayfish captured in the creek should not be consumed by humans as they bioaccumulate metals and other toxins.

The report also says that stormwater management is a key concern in the watershed.

Some 137 stormwater outfalls feed into the Nose and West Nose Creek waterways. They are helping to degrade water quality and damage aquatic habitat.

The executive director of the Bow River Basin Council (BRBC), Mark Bennett, spoke to council about its concerns.

"The Nose Creek is probably the most challenged waterway in our basin," said Bennett

The BRBC is an advisory body to the provincial government. 

Bennett is encouraging city council to push the province to move ahead with new rules regarding stormwater use and the re-use of water as a lot of work in the Bow River basin is dependent on those improvements.

Industry concerns about new standards

Development along the creek valley is being challenged by stormwater rules.

There was discussion at the committee that red tape and project-by-project assessments are holding up new businesses near the creek.

A representative of NAIOP Calgary, the commercial real estate development association, told the committee it supports protecting waterways.

But Guy Huntingford said it is also hoping for greater clarity in any new stormwater standards that might be adopted.

"Hopefully it will be something that will be able to tell you, that will put in place for the development industry some certainty going forward," said Huntingford. 

"Right now, a lot of it is just 'one offs' and that's a concern. That would be fair."

Councillor cites delays

Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal said he shares the concern that stormwater standards are proving to be confusing impediments for companies that want to develop along the Nose Creek watershed.

"The [stormwater] targets that were put in place previously were not achievable," said Chahal, particularly for the owners of small parcels of land.

"It's caused long delays for them and additional red tape and costs."

He's also concerned that many landowners have not been consulted about the plans for new stormwater standards on the creek.

The committee approved the recommendations from administration, which include a progress report in the third quarter of 2020 on the implementation of a new watershed management plan.

City council will discuss the report in July.

The City of Airdrie, Rocky View County and the Calgary Airport Authority are also part of the Nose Creek Watershed Partnership.


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