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Alberta moves to protect Calgary, neighbouring communities from severe flooding

New flood protection along the Bow and Elbow Rivers will protect Calgary and upstream communities from the type of severe flooding that occurred in June 2013, the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history.

“Building Alberta’s flood defenses will help protect families and businesses from a repeat of the devastation experienced in 2013, when more than $6 billion in damage was inflicted on our infrastructure and economy. Our government has carefully weighed the options and is moving forward with a plan that makes the most sense for families, businesses and taxpayers. This investment will help safeguard our communities and economy against increasingly severe and frequent natural disasters.”

Shannon Phillips, Minister of Environment and Parks

A provincial funding commitment of $297 million will ensure communities along the Elbow River are protected from a 2013-level flood. 

The Alberta government is also providing dedicated funding of $150 million over 10 years to the City of Calgary for local projects through the Alberta Community Resilience Program.

The flood mitigation projects were selected based on the advice of independent experts in flood protection. Specific projects include:

  • Building the Springbank Off-stream Reservoir
  • Funding local mitigation in Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows
  • Establishing the Bow River working group, which will be jointly chaired by the province and the City of Calgary and will include representation from rural municipalities, irrigation districts, local First Nations communities and other stakeholders, to assess future flood protection along the Bow River

“The flood of 2013 had a devastating impact on the lives of thousands of Albertans. I am very pleased that the new provincial government has moved to protect downtown Calgary and our flood prone communities from a similar flood in the future. The Springbank Off-stream Reservoir and the $150 million in provincial funding for additional mitigation along our rivers is a significant step forward. Of course, much more work is required for flood mitigation and watershed management on both the Bow and Elbow rivers, and we look forward to working collaboratively with both the provincial and federal governments on this issue.”

Naheed Nenshi, Mayor of Calgary

“We are pleased that after conducting an independent review of options for the Elbow River, the province decided to proceed with the Springbank Off-stream Reservoir, and we look forward to seeing shovels hit the ground as soon as possible. While this is an excellent first step to protecting downtown Calgary and residential communities, the City remains vulnerable on the Bow. The Bow River working group has an important task ahead of it – and we sincerely hope it will propose solutions on an expedited basis. We are committed to remaining an engaged stakeholder until the City is fully protected from a 2013-magnitude flood.”

Brenda Leeds Binder, Co-President, Calgary River Communities Action Group

A review by Deltares, a Dutch research foundation, concluded the Springbank Off-stream Reservoir, combined with local mitigation projects in Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows, was the better choice over the McLean Creek Dam. This is based on the Springbank Off-stream Reservoir’s close proximity to Calgary, a shorter delivery timeline, less risk during construction, lower estimated costs and greater cost certainty, and less environmental impact.

Working in tandem with the storage capacity available at Glenmore Reservoir, the Springbank Off-stream Reservoir would protect against a 2013-level flood on the Elbow River in Calgary. Preliminary engineering work is already underway on the 70.2 million cubic metre reservoir located approximately 15 kilometres west of Calgary.

The province is providing approximately $33 million for local flood mitigation protection for Bragg Creek, plus additional funding for Redwood Meadows. Preliminary engineering for work in Bragg Creek, led by Rocky View County, is complete and community engagement will begin soon. Plans for local mitigation in Bragg Creek consist of a system of dikes and drains. Additional flood mitigation requirements for Redwood Meadows will be determined after plans for Bragg Creek are finalized, due to the downstream location of Redwood Meadows. Both communities will see protection built to the 2013 level, plus freeboard.

Progress is being made on Bow River flood mitigation. A working group is being struck, which will be jointly chaired by the province and the City of Calgary and will include representation from rural municipalities, irrigation districts, local First Nations communities and other stakeholders to assess water storage options within the Bow River Basin, looking at the impacts on both flood and drought protection.

As part of the overall strategy for managing flood risk in Alberta, five new multi-year river hazard studies are now underway. The five new studies will identify river hazards and produce new flood inundation and flood hazard maps for the Bow, Elbow, Sheep, Highwood, and Peace Rivers. In total, approximately 525 kilometres of river will be studied and mapped. 

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