PUBLISHED: 01 April 2014

BRBC March 12th Quarterly Forum Summary: Part 1

The Bow River Basin Council Quarterly Meeting and Networking Forum was held on March 12th at the TransAlta Auditorium. This sold out event brought together participants and speakers from throughout the southern Alberta water community. This first blog post covers the flood specific updates from the March 12th meeting. The rest of the activities will be posted next week.

High River Mitigation Update

Doug Holmes spoke on behalf of the Town of High River. He opened by saying in High River, as elsewhere, development has occurred close to water which has created conflicts. He explained that modeling has been completed to study how water came into the town, where it stayed and how it left. Currently, properties in the neighbourhoods of Wallaceville and Beachwood have been bought out, 108 properties have been removed and a temporary dike has been constructed in the south. To see the placement of mitigation projects in visit the High River Flood Mitigation Projects webpage.

By May 15, 2014 “flood mitigation will be functionally operational and in place”[1]. Some of these dikes will be permanent however, some will be temporary in order to meet the May 15th deadline. The town is asking for rapid approvals but emphasized the need to avoid repetition of past mistakes. When asked if there would be a new footprint in the floodway Holmes affirmed that High River Council is committed to not repeating the same mistakes and said they need to be “smarter” about there they build.  Click here for March 14th mitigation update.

Weather and Our Watershed

Susan Ryan of Calgary River Valleys gave an overview of the June meteorological conditions that led to flooding, geography of southern Alberta, types of flooding and touched on the socio-economic impacts of the flood. When asked about the floodway in Winnipeg and if the same could be done in Calgary Ryan noted that unlike Winnipeg, the river valleys surrounding Calgary are incised. While the land surrounding Winnipeg and the Red River is flat, the rivers in southern Alberta often have steep valleys making the construction of a floodway problematic.

Task Force Update

Communication & Clarification: Andre Corbould, Chief Assistant Deputy Minister, Flood Recovery, provided a Task Force update to BRBC attendees. Mr. Corbould began by stating that public consultations were still ongoing and the Task Force is trying to talk to as many stakeholders as possible. The Task Force has been extended until at least July 1st and will not be closing in April. Mr. Corbould also addressed recent word use clarifying that consultants are not creating watershed management plans rather, they are considering impacts within the watershed.
Timeline: Mr. Corbould noted there would be a temporary shift from long-term planning to Spring Readiness. Flood fighting equipment will be purchased and focus will shift temporarily to immediate spring planning. Completed reports are due at the end of March and will be presented to the Ministerial Task Force. These reports will be reviewed and recommendations will be made at the end of April and decisions will be made about which project are and are not accepted. Alberta’s Watershed Management Symposium: Flood and Drought Mitigation is scheduled for April 29th and will discuss progress and further improvement to prevent future floods and drought.

River Modeling Results Updates

Presenter Megan Van Ham from Alberta WaterSMART began by saying a significant amount of work has been completed on the Bow River Flood Mitigation and Watershed Management Project Report. This report is now available for download. The following discussion took place after the results were presented to the BRBC forum.

  • First comment from the audience was an observation that homeowners have been encouraged to protect their properties with small-scale mitigation efforts but these efforts were not reflected in the modeling project.
  • Two audience members inquired about the impact of groundwater and wetland loss. Van Ham responded that wetlands were modeled to restore function and although it was hard to definitively prove that wetlands would play a significant role in a large flood, wetlands are recognized as contributing to a flood mitigation portfolio. The complexity of these systems will be reflected in the final report.
  • A BRBC attendee noted similarities between the San Antonio River Improvements Project and some of the mitigation options modeled in the WaterSMART report. The San Antonio River Improvements Project has an extensive website if you would like to learn more about these projects.

 
 
[1] Town of High River. (2014).Flood Mitgation Projects in High River. [Press Release]. Retrieved from http://www.highriver.ca/index.php/en/publicforums/news-forum/news-flash/696-flood-mitigation-projects-in-high-river