Mill Woods residents frustrated by flood mitigation work

The city's flood relief work in his neighbourhood is overkill, an Edmonton resident says.

'It's engineering overkill,' Tweddle Place resident says

A section of "living wall" on 91st Street. The wall will eventually replace the existing berm as a sound barrier for residents in the Tweddle Place neighbourhood. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

The city's multimillion-dollar flood-mitigation plan for Mill Woods is overkill, an Edmonton resident says.

Last summer, drainage pipes under the street in front of Willy Jabs's house at 43rd Avenue and 89th Street were replaced with much larger ones.

Those new pipes were part of a $57-million city initiative that began in 2015 and extends until 2020, which also includes creating a dry pond and a new living wall, according to Byron Nicholson, director of city utility delivery.

While Jabs saw that work as necessary, he doesn't agree with the work underway this summer.

The city is preparing to remove the berm separating the rear of Jabs' property from 91st Street in order to expand the dry pond that runs parallel to the street.

"We've lived here for 30 years and that pond has never seen a drop of water," said Jabs on Tuesday. "It's engineering overkill."
This photograph shows the trees on the berm that runs along 91st Street behind Willy Jabs' home in Tweddle Place. (Willy Jabs)
A section of the berm where the trees have been removed. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

The city has already removed the trees along the berm.

"We've nurtured all these trees that are being taken down," he said. "We've noticed already the sound from 91st Street is causing sleepless nights."

Nicholson defends the project.

"They [dry ponds] are there for the long haul," he said.

"We understand if people haven't been flooded, they see these projects and they scratch their heads, but there's lots of folks that have been [flooded] that have been begging for the city to do something for quite a few years," Nicholson said.

The berm will be replaced with what Nicholson describes as a living wall.

The three-metre wall will be composed of a wood frame, earth and willow shrubs and will run along 91st Street between Mill Woods Road and Whitemud Drive.
"It looks like a rat's nest," says Greg Day of the living wall behind his Tweddle Place home. (CBC)

An example of the living wall can be found on a section of 91st Street near Mill Woods Road, Nicholson said.

Area resident Greg Day, whose property backs on the current demonstration living wall, says while the wall effectively blocks sound, it looks awful.

"It looks like a rat's nest," Day said. "I think they could have done a lot better job watering. It needs continual water."

Nicholson admits much of the living wall is no longer alive after the watering system was accidentally turned off.

"We won't be doing it the same way with the new wall we're building," he said. "We'll have our own watering source that gets plumbed in there."

Coun. Mike Nickel has heard the complaints of residents.

"They're frustrated with the green wall and maybe they just want a wall," Nickel said.

He plans to meet with drainage officials later this summer and raise the possibility of replacing the living wall with a concrete one.

"It's a dried-up twig wall right now," Nickel said. "So let's dig into why the failure was there and then ask the legitimate question: Should we keep the living wall going?"
This dry pond that runs parallel to 91st Street between Mill Woods Road and Whitemud Freeway is to be expanded as part of the city's flood mitigation plan for the area. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)