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Springbank dry reservoir one step closer to reality

“Everywhere that the river ran was just in shambles,” Olsen said. “The river overran everything and upset a lot of Tsuut’ina land.”
The provincial government announced April 14 that the Tsuut'ina First Nation has withdrawn their objections to the Springbank off-stream reservoir. File Photo

TSUU’TINA FIRST NATION— With the withdrawal of their formal objection to the Springbank dry reservoir, the flood mitigation project is one step closer to reality.

The objection to the Springbank reservoir, also known as the Springbank off-stream Reservoir SR1 project, was officially announced as withdrawn on April 14, said Tsuut’ina media contact Gordon Olsen, because newly elected Chief Roy Whitney was looking to reopen discussions to help the project break ground.

“He was willing to have a discussion with the proponents of SR1, mainly the provincial government,” Olsen said. “The new Minister [of Transportation] the honourable Ric McIver was really prepared to listen to what the concerns were and to find ways to mitigate those concerns.”

After the dialogue began it was able to culminate in agreement that there would see various projects undertaken to protect the citizens and nation members on Tsuut’ina land, Olsen said. He explained that because of this Chief Whitney felt confident in withdrawing objections so the project could move forward.

The flood in 2013 created extensive damage in property and homes in low lying areas of Tsuut’ina, Olsen said.

“Everywhere that the river ran was just in shambles,” Olsen said. “The river overran everything and upset a lot of Tsuut’ina land.”

The project stalled, he said, due to concerns the Redwood Meadows townsite and golf course and the Tsuut’ina Rodeo Grounds would not be protected if another flood were to happen.

Olsen said there are now projects, including potential flood berms built in Redwood Meadows and Bragg Creek, that will help protect the Nation and the surrounding area from future flooding.

The nation has been in consultations with Alberta Transportation since August 2014. With the withdrawal of the formal objection Tsuut’ina will not participate any further with the project’s regulatory process.

Despite the objection withdrawal by the First Nation, MLA Banff-Kananaskis Miranda Rosin said her position on the reservoir remains unchanged.

“I still don’t believe that SR1 is the right project to protect everyone— Calgary and the areas of Banff Kananaskis that are affected,” Rosin said. “I fully accept and respect the decision that they [Tsuut’tina First Nation] have made.”

She noted that the project remains unable to move forward as of now because it is waiting for approval by the federal environmental regulator. A second submittal has been made to the regulator regarding the reservoir.

“As of right now the project is still stalled with the regulator,” Rosin said, explaining that as soon approval is received the project will be able to move forward.

If the Springbank reservoir project is approved it will be built about 15km west of Calgary on the Elbow River and occupy about 3,870 acres. The area was chosen because it will offer flood mitigation for the City of Calgary and Rocky View County properties, will have a limited environmental impact and provides easy access to operational response teams and access roads.

The system will work to control how mich flood water enters the river through the use of a diversion channel and the design is built to accommodate water levels matching the 2013 flood.

Rosin said she would like to see a project that ensures that all areas of Banff-Kananaskis receive flood mitigation measures equally.

“It’s coming up on ten years since the flood soon and no one knows when the next one will be,” Rosin said. “We can’t predict mother nature we don’t know when the next flood could be— We need to be ready.”

Rosin cited an infamous video captured in Bragg Creek during the 2013 flood of a house floating down the Elbow River and crashing into the Balsam Avenue bridge.

“I think when a lot of people look back on the flood that’s kind of this gripping image that’s drilled into their minds,” Rosin said. “But what a lot of people forget is that the house wasn’t in Calgary— that house was in Bragg Creek. To me, that is a really strong reminder that we need to make sure these rural communities are protected just as much as Calgary is.”

When reached for comment Rocky View County said they are not speaking on the Springbank reservoir project at this time.

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