Calgary

Springbank dry dam needed to protect Calgary from flooding, minister says

The province’s transportation minister says a controversial plan to build a dry dam in Springbank is the best way to protect Calgary from a repeat of the disaster that happened three years ago.

Brian Mason says impact on acreage owners outweighed by need to save city from 2013-level disaster

The 2013 southern Alberta floods caused as much as $6 billion in damage — the most costly disaster in Canadian history. (Canadian Press)

As Alberta marks the three-year anniversary of the 2013 floods, the province's transportation minister says a controversial plan to build a dry dam in Springbank is the best way to protect Calgary from a repeat of the disaster.

Many landowners in the acreage community west of the city are opposed to the $250-million project, which will consume 1,461 hectares of land.

A canal would carry water from the Elbow River to the new reservoir during flood conditions, and release it back to the river in a controlled manner when the flood subsides.

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

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

While the project will force some families to relocate, Brian Mason says it will protect the entire city of Calgary.

"Those ranchers don't want to have any change in the impact on their land. I understand that. But that's 17-odd families, as opposed to up to a million people in Calgary, and billions of dollars of property that we need to protect," he said.

"And so, that clearly has to be the priority."

An alternate plan for a dry dam at the confluence of McLean Creek and the Elbow River was rejected on the basis that it would be more expensive, harder to build and cause more damage to environmentally sensitive areas.

Last fall, Calgary city council listed eight other flood mitigation priorities, including berms at the Calgary Zoo and the Bonnybrook Wastewater Treatment Plant, and a new pumping station to prevent storm drains from backing up into Sunnyside.

The province is dedicating $50 million a year for 10 years to help municipalities prepare for floods.

Disaster took 5 lives 

The 2013 disaster destroyed about 14,500 homes and 1,600 businesses, as well as parks, highways and schools. It also forced about 100,000 Albertans from their homes, and claimed five lives.

The flooding caused as much as $6 billion in damage — the most costly disaster in Canadian history.

The Alberta government has distributed more than $145 million in disaster recovery program (DRP) funding to date, said Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee in a release.

"Our province is no stranger to disasters. In the past few years, we've seen other disasters damage our communities, such as the recent Fort McMurray wildfire. While these disasters test our communities, they are no match for the resilient spirit and tenacity of Albertans," she said.

"As we mark the anniversary today, I want to thank southern Albertans for your incredible bravery, compassion and commitment."

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