The Government of Alberta has begun implementing the advice from a report that identifies ways to improve flood resilience in Calgary and better manage water throughout the Bow River basin.
The Bow River Water Management Project report, produced by the Bow River Working Group, represents a first step in building multiple layers of resilience throughout the Bow River basin to address both flood and drought concerns. It outlines both short- and long-term options.
Possible options for upstream storage include new potential storage sites and a further modification of TransAlta reservoir operations.
“Our government has made it a priority to protect communities along the Bow River,” said Sharon Phillips, minister of environment and parks. “This report gives us additional ways to collaborate with partners to boost our readiness in case severe flooding comes our way again.”
“This is an important step forward in upstream flood mitigation on the Bow River,” said Naheed Nenshi, mayor of Calgary. “While The City of Calgary has done much work to become more flood resilient within our own borders, more upstream mitigation must be done to protect Calgarians, our communities and our economy. Moving ahead with these recommendations is critical, and we look forward to further collaboration with the province and the other Bow River stakeholders to put these plans into action.”
Based on the report’s findings, the province is working with TransAlta and other stakeholders to begin implementing some of the short-term solutions identified. These include:
- Discussions with TransAlta to extend and expand the current agreement on modified operations, including the addition of Spray Lake and Lake Minnewanka to the agreement and using Barrier Lake for flood mitigation purposes rather than drought mitigation;
- Discussions with Irrigation Districts to improve water retention for agricultural use downstream of Calgary;
- A feasibility study on increasing the drawdown rate at Ghost Reservoir; and
- Initiating feasibility studies for potential long-term projects identified in the report.
The province also remains committed to protecting Alberta communities against severe flooding along the Elbow River. Engineering, community engagement, and environmental assessment work continue regarding the Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir (SR1) and other flood barriers to protect Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows. The total cost of the SR1 project is now estimated at $432 million. This figure includes increased construction and engineering work needed to meet updated design requirements, as well as the intention to purchase entire quarter-section parcels beyond the footprint of the project. Following completion of SR1, lands outside of the project footprint will be resold, resulting in an estimated net cost of $372 million. The McLean Creek option is estimated to cost $406 million.
The Bow River Working Group, struck in October 2015, was jointly chaired by the province and the City of Calgary and included representation from rural municipalities, local First Nations communities, irrigation districts, TransAlta, and other stakeholders to assess water storage options within the Bow River basin. The group’s mandate was to provide advice on a long-term water management plan that considers both flood and drought and balances the needs of various stakeholders throughout the basin.
Earlier this year, the province approved $63 million in grants through the Alberta Community Resilience Program and Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program for projects that will help Alberta communities and organizations adapt to severe weather events and a changing climate.