Calgary

This Calgary creek was paved over and treated as stormwater — now activists want it to see the light

The group has been pushing the government to recognize the creek as vital to Calgary's groundwater and daylight it, a process that returns water that's been diverted below ground back into the sunlight.

'Burying these creeks is not the way to go environmentally'

A group of local activists are hoping to daylight Confederation Creek, which has been largely paved over. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

The watershed was first crafted by glacial melt thousands of years ago.

Its tributaries run under what's now Brentwood, Charleswood and Brisebois Drive — all paved over.

Now, local activists are hoping to bring one of those tributaries — Confederation Creek — back into the daylight by having it officially recognized by the province.

When it goes underground, it's out of sight out of mind.- Simone Lee, Friends of Confederation Creek

The creek isn't actually called Confederation, it's just been dubbed that because it runs through Confederation Park. Its official, albeit unceremonious title is outfall N25, because it's treated as a stormwater flow to Nose Creek.

Simone Lee, the president of Friends of Confederation Creek, says to acknowledge the creek as what it is — a crucial supplier of one of Calgary's largest watersheds — would protect it.

"When it goes underground, it's out of sight out of mind," Lee said.

"There was this refusal to acknowledge that there was this permanent, existing, groundwater flow through northwest Calgary."

Lee spoke standing on the edge of Queen's Park Creek, one of the only above-ground tributaries left.

Janice Deere says if developers continue to build over Confederation Creek, it will put residents at further risk of flooding. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

The group has been pushing the government to recognize the creek as vital to Calgary's groundwater and daylight it, a process that returns water that's been diverted below ground back into the sunlight.

"Burying these creeks is not the way to go environmentally," said Janice Deere, another member of Friends of Confederation Creek.

"Having that creek in the daylight will actually preserve, enhance the water."

The Homestretch's traffic maven, Jenny Howe, has taken listeners on many walks throughout the city of Calgary. So when Jenny was approached about a walk along Confederation Creek, a spot she'd never been, she thought: why not? Jenny assumed it was simply that creek that runs through Confederation Park. That is kind of right, but it's only a snapshot of where the creek runs. Simone Lee is with the organization Friends of Confederation Creek. She was Jenny's guide on this creek journey that they had to take by foot and car. 7:30

But actually protecting the creek and its surrounding wetland will be a complex task.

Some land in the area has already been approved for development, but in March a study was released recommending some of that land along the creek be used for flood mitigation instead.

Newly-elected MLA Jeremy Nixon said he's been speaking to residents and the local city councillor about the creek, and is excited to dig into the issue, even though it's a complicated one.

Confederation Creek originates in what used to be called the North Hill Coulee, at the foot of Nose Hill. It's largely been diverted underground by developments — causing nearby communities to flood frequently after heavy rainfall. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

"In addition to what can we do in regards to daylighting the creek or not, in regards to the flooding … as well as considering the fact it's currently privately owned land, that adds another layer of complexity to it," he said.

Lee said she hopes with a new government, there's a new audience for her group's message — that we know more about water protection now than when the streams were paved over, and should act accordingly.

"We have to set a better example for our kids," she said. "We know better now, so we should just do better."

With files from Terri Trembath

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