Being Prepared in Advance of Flooding Season

Calgary Elbow

This year marks the fifth anniversary of one of the costliest natural disasters in our country. The 2013 flood had a huge impact on Calgary-Elbow, but that impact wasn’t limited to those living near the river. The flood cost an estimated $6 billion, with more than half of that borne directly by government (and in turn, the taxpayers). There was also tremendous disruption to the downtown core, which cost millions more to businesses large and small.

The PCs and the NDP both reviewed more than a dozen independent studies and decided the Springbank Off-stream Reservoir is the cheapest and most effective way to prevent future flood damage on the Elbow River.

A study done by the Dutch water experts Deltares found that the MacLean Creek option is inferior on all counts; it is more expensive, further upstream and therefore less effective at mitigating floods, and has a far greater environmental impact. It would see a 28-story concrete dam on the Elbow River that would permanently flood thousands of acres of provincial park in an area with significant Indigenous heritage, rare plants, and threatened wildlife.

The Springbank project will prevent three dollars of damage for every dollar spent building it, and most of the damage prevented would be in the core business district of downtown Calgary.

No project is without impacts; the public interest of Albertans who rely on downtown Calgary for their livelihoods means that 20 Springbank landowners will need to sell their land for fair market value. I wish there was an equally effective option that doesn’t require buyouts, but there simply isn’t.

By comparison, the city will acquire 74 properties to build the Green Line LRT and 43 parcels of private land for the widening of 17th Avenue SE. It is common for government to acquire private property when it’s in the public interest, and Springbank is no exception.

I will continue to push for the urgent completion of the Springbank Off-stream Reservoir, which will, in combination with upgrades to the Glenmore Reservoir, provide 1-in-200 flood protection to Calgary-Elbow, other river communities, and to downtown Calgary.