City weighs options to 'daylight' Mill Creek

Stretches of Mill Creek connected to the North Saskatchewan River through man-made underground tunnels could once again see the light of day. City staff are preparing options for council to consider in the new year.

Three concepts to reconnect Mill Creek to the North Saskatchewan River coming to council in the new year

People at a public meeting Wednesday night examine poster boards detailing the current lay of the land where Mill Creek flows through tunnels into the North Saskatchewan River. (Roberta Bell/CBC )

The portion of Mill Creek connected to the North Saskatchewan River through man-made underground tunnels could once again see the light of day. 

There has been talk for years about "daylighting" the creek but city staff are now actively preparing options for council to consider in the new year. 

Agnieszka Kotowska, an ecological planner in the city's sustainable development department, said the project is still in the conceptual stage, but momentum is building. 

People are really looking forward to the idea of having a restored creek.- Agnieszka   Kotowska , ecological planner

"I think people are really excited," Kotowska said at an open house Wednesday evening at the Cloverdale community hall.

"People are really looking forward to the idea of having a restored creek."
The city is looking at options for bringing underground portions of Mill Creek back to the surface. (@LineloDude/Twitter)

Halfway through the four-hour event, about 50 people had passed through, chatting with city staff about the environmental and technical specs and offering suggestions about what they'd like to see happen.

Nancy Rempel, president of the group Keepers of Mill Creek, said she's pleased with the attention the city is giving to restoring the creek.

"Nobody enjoys a creek that's going into a tunnel," Rempel said at the event. "It would be a chance to bring the creek back up to life."

Nancy Rempel is the president of the Keepers of Mill Creek. The group has been advocating for years to daylight the sections that have been diverted underground. (Roberta Bell/CBC)

In the 1960s and '70s, Mill Creek was diverted underground to make way for a freeway that was never built. North of 94th Avenue, it flows into a tunnel that discharges it into the river upstream of the natural creek-bed connection. 

Last year, council asked staff to study the feasibility of realignment. That legwork alone comes with a $250,000 price tag. 

Kotowska said the budget for actually daylighting Mill Creek — that's what the process is called — has yet to be determined. 

Once the city identifies possible routes to reconnect the creek, it wll have a better idea of the cost.

Three options to be considered

The city owns the land around the downstream portions of the creek it's looking to unearth, so Kotowska said the expenses would be technical costs associated with relocating utilities, if necessary.

There will be three options. The most basic one will just connect the creek to the North Saskatchewan river. The most elaborate one will consider recreation as well.

Kotowska said city staff are working on a "sort of menu" of additional amenities and features, which would promote recreation, education and nature.

Riverdale resident Eric Gormley was at the open house. He's a longtime proponent of protecting the river valley.

- Riverdale resident Eric Gormley

"I think they're on the right track," Gormley said. "I think just the whole idea of daylighting the creek, in other words, trying to make it come up from underground, seems to make sense."

Gormley said it would open up new wildlife corridors. 

"Fish will be able to come up and spawn in the creek and animals will be able to move from Mill Creek ravine down to the river," he said.