Alberta commits $13M to Calgary flood-mitigation projects, mayor still seeks large-scale action

Alberta commits $13M to Calgary flood-mitigation projects, mayor still seeks large-scale action

Calgary's mayor says he's satisfied with the steady stream of provincial funding for small-scale projects to protect the city from flooding, but he's still looking for large-scale, upstream mitigation measures on both the Elbow and Bow rivers.

"Flood resilience and mitigation continues to be our top priority," Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Wednesday as the province revealed roughly $13 million in specific grants for projects within the city limits.

The grants include:

- $3.4 million for construction of a dedicated pump station to protect the community of Sunnyside from both high levels of stormwater and river water.

- $6.4 million for upgrades of an existing pump station in Sunnyside and related flood resilience work.

- $1.7 million for replacement of a sanitary sewer lift station in the community of Roxboro.

- $738,000 in supplemental funding for a flood barrier in west Eau Claire.

- $567,000 for improvements of emergency access at Harvie Passage and downstream sluice gates.

The projects are also receiving funding from the municipal and federal governments, but Nenshi said the province is picking up most of the tab.

City must adapt to 'changing reality'

Environment Minister Shannon Philips said the projects will help protect Calgary from high-water events like the massive flood the city experienced in 2013, which she described as increasingly likely in the future due to climate change.

"We must adapt to this changing reality," she said.

"Our future and our economic well-being will be directly affected by extreme weather. In Calgary, that means we must be ready for dramatic swings in river flows."

Nenshi noted these are the latest in a series of funding commitments the province has made for community-level projects within the city, but he's still hoping to see movement soon on the Springbank dry dam.

"I think it is very clear that the province is making the moves that we need them to make," the mayor said. 

"I'd love to get this stuff built much more quickly but there are environmental assessments we have to go through, and so on."

The $263-million dry dam would see water diverted from the Elbow River upstream of Calgary during high-flow periods to a storage area with a capacity of 70.2 million cubic metres — or roughly 28,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools — to protect the city.

The province has committed funding to the project but has yet to begin construction, as hurdles remain with respect to environmental assessments, opposition from area residents and negotiations with the Tsuut'ina First Nation.

'Giant cheque ... please'

As for the Bow River, the province is still relying on a deal with TransAlta to use its Ghost hydro dam for flood-mitigation purposes.

Nenhsi said he's still looking for a more permanent, dedicated measure.

"The next big thing that Minister Phillips is going to have to help us with is, of course, a giant cheque for upstream mitigation on the Bow River," he said with a smile and nod to Phillips at a press conference in Calgary.

"But, let's not write that giant cheque until we know what that looks like," Nenshi added.

"That said, giant cheque. Sometime soon. Please."