Calgary

Springbank reservoir: landowners critical of plan at open house

Some landowners west of Calgary question the wisdom behind the province's plan for a flood mitigation project in the Springbank area.

Off-stream dry dam west of Calgary being constructed to hold floodwater from Elbow River

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

Some landowners west of Calgary are fighting the province's plan for a flood mitigation project in the Springbank area.

There was a big turnout for an open house in Cochrane Wednesday night on the plans for the dry off-stream reservoir.

The reservoir has been approved to protect Calgary from the kind of floodwaters that ravaged the city in 2013.

But many affected landowners remain opposed to the project.

Marshal Copithorne, whose family will lose much of the land they have farmed since 1887, says the province hasn't thought it through.

“This is an experimental project. This is the first time a dam of this kind has been put in the province of Alberta. The first time it's been put in probably in Canada,” he said.

An open house on Wednesday night in Cochrane concerning the off-stream dry reservoir being built in Springbank drew a large crowd. (CBC)

“That river runs through 30 miles of public property, public land, and the first inch of private property it hits, that's where they decide to build a dam.”

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

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

Construction is scheduled to begin next year and be completed in 2018 at a cost of more than $250 million.

Stantec Consulting has been hired for its design, engineering, and environmental impact assessment.

Dick Koetsier, whose house in Bragg Creek was swept away in the 2013 flood, says Springbank is the wrong place to put the dam.

“There's no real benefit at all for Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows from the Springbank Dam because it's downstream,” he said.

Copithorne agrees.

“For the life of me I don't understand how this project is supposed to help Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows, it just bewilders me,” he said.

Springbank judged best option 

Jason Penner, who speaks for Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, says a dry dam farther west at the confluence of McLean Creek and the Elbow River is still under consideration. 

"However this one's moving forward, it's been judged to be the better project," he said.

"These are complex engineering projects, so you can't just look at a map and determine the best option based on location. There's a lot of other factors that weigh heavily into it."

Penner says the Springbank dam will be able to hold about 67.6 million cubic metres of water.

"That combined with what we can get through operations of Glenmore Reservoir allows us to hit a magic number of 83 million cubic metres of water, which is sufficient to effectively mitigate against a 2013 level flood," he said. 

The reservoir will be located a bit south of Highway 1, east of Highway 22 and north of Highway 8. (Google Maps )

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