Sunnyside residents question city's response to flash flood
Northwest community flooded again July 5, many say Calgary's water services didn't respond fast enough
Sunnyside residents met last night to air their grievances to city managers after their neighbourhoods flooded twice in the past few weeks.
Much of the northwest neighbourhood, which runs along Memorial Drive on the Bow River, was drenched when the June 20 floods hit.
Then many homes were flooded again after a heavy rain fell on the city July 5.
The problem, say residents, is that the storm gates between the community and the river — meant to stem the flow of water from the river into the community when they are closed, and usher out water from the community into the river when they are open — were almost fully closed.
That allowed for rainwater to pool up into the community, say residents, filling drainage pipes and backing up into the streets and homes.
City managers with water services said the gates were almost completely closed as a precaution to stop river water from flowing up into them, but instead it kept water in — flooding the community.
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Community members said that was the wrong choice, and they blame city water crews for not responding fast enough to fully open the gates.
Water services will present a city council committee with three reports July 24 in which upgrades to the city’s draining infrastructure will be addressed.
A study was done in 2009 on the area’s drainage infrastructure in the area. Water resources director Rob Spackman said some of the recommendations from the report are on the city’s to do list, but haven’t been completed yet.
"Our roster of upgrades, it’s about, at the moment, around $170 million. And we are looking at working through that queue of projects."
Funding for those projects will be addressed at the July 24 meeting.
Water services will meet with Sunnyside residents in early August to address short- and long-term actions.
Area Ald. Druh Farrell was at the meeting, and pointed to cuts city council made to the drainage budget in the early 2000s.
Farrell said drainage systems are an easy thing to cut when looking at a budget, because when they work, they’re invisible.
"There's also the fact that we're getting storms that are more severe. How do we protect our communities that are in the flood plains?" asked Farrell.
Dan Limacher, director of water services, said — despite the tone — the meeting was productive.
"The city's storm system is a complex system and there are a lot of factors to consider. Whatever the limitations are, working together with the community will only enhance the answers within those limitations," said Limacher.
"We're looking forward to continuing this conversation with the community."