Calgary

Alberta's government hires lawyer to try to speed up Springbank dam construction

Alberta's new UCP government has hired a lawyer to try and speed up construction of the Springbank dam. 

Transportation Minister Ric McIver said independent expert is needed to get project moving

A rendering of what a diversion channel for the Springbank reservoir would look like. (Alberta Transportation/YouTube screenshot)

Alberta's new UCP government has hired a lawyer to try and speed up construction of the Springbank dam.

The province announced Friday it has appointed Martin Ignasiak, a partner at law firm Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, to assess the project's status and advise on action that can be taken to move it forward. 

"We need an independent expert to evaluate the Springbank Reservoir project and determine what can be done to move this project forward," said Transportation Minister Ric McIver in an emailed statement. 

"We are confident that Mr. Ignasiak will help us move quickly to protect the safety and economic security of Calgary and those living in other communities downstream of the Elbow River."

The dry dam which could fill with up to 70.2 million cubic metres of water from a swollen Elbow River — is intended to protect Calgarians from an event like in 2013, when heavy rains and a melting snowpack sent floodwaters rushing into the city and nearby communities.

The ensuing disaster in southern Alberta killed five people, saw 70,000 flee their homes and caused billions of dollars of damage.

The Springbank reservoir, outlined in black, would be approximately 15 kilometres west of Calgary, north of the Elbow River. (Government of Alberta)

So far, the government has acquired about 20 per cent of the 3,870 acres of land needed for the $432-million project. 

The dam has been met with opposition from some local landowners, including the Tsuut'ina First Nation and Rocky View County.

It's currently under review by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Alberta Environment and Parks and the Natural Resources Conservation Board.

The province has said it will expropriate land if necessary so the dam can be completed by 2022.

Ignasiak has "extensive experience" obtaining regulatory approvals for large-scale projects, the province said.

He has been involved in a number of major energy industry deals and cases, according to his firm's website, and has appeared before all levels of court in Canada.

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