Dry Dam. Wet Dam. Mud Hole. Dust Bowl.

Dave 07Last fall, to great fanfare and just before the Alberta provincial by-elections, the Prentice PC government announced the Springbank Dry Dam (SBD) flood mitigation project to be constructed just a few kilometres west of Calgary. The announcement was in the papers and on television, and that’s where the landowners who will lose their land, or the use of their land, found out about it. Talk about a callous and cynical disregard for property rights!

There is no question that some form of flood mitigation is required before we inevitably get hit by the next big one. After all, Calgary was subjected to two floods in the late 1800s, each bigger than the 2013 deluge. But it must be the right project in the right place, and at the right cost.

Here are a few things for voters to think about.

Is it right that people whose lives will be disrupted, livelihoods threatened, and property values greatly diminished should be completely ignored in the planning stages of a project of this magnitude and impact?

Does it make sense to locate a flood mitigation dam where it will provide absolutely no protection to the communities of Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows, both of which suffered serious damage in 2013?

Ranching families in the area have ridden these foothills and valleys for generations, and know them intimately. Why was their counsel not sought in the lead up to the announcement of the SBD? They have been ranching in the area since 1885 which is several decades before people began building mansions on the Elbow River floodplain.

These people of the land can point to a number of possible locations for flood mitigation projects which would not only protect Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows but would also provide larger scale protection for the City of Calgary.

Several upstream Elbow dam proposals have been discussed by Government bureaucrats.  One site that appeared to be viable was the McLean Creek area, but the government told us that it was finding it too complicated to wade through all the regulatory requirements, recreational aspects, and environmental concerns that would involve placing the dam on public lands.

So are they saying that future infrastructure projects in Alberta can only be undertaken on private lands because it is too complicated for them to comply with government regulations on public land; while if the land is privately held they can just announce the project through the media and, voilà!, problem solved? Based on the Prentice PC’s approach so far, maybe that’s what they are telling us.

In addition to being in the wrong place, the proposed SBD project is based on a flawed concept. After they announced the SBD, representatives of the Government proudly told us that the project is to be based on a concept they discovered while on a recent trip to the Netherlands.  It even has a catchy name: “Room for the River.”

As we know, when rivers flood their banks in fertile alluvial regions, the water carries rich organic sediment downstream and deposits it near the river mouth.  When the water subsides, the land can be farmed intensively. Think of the Nile River flooding and enriching the soil along its banks and on its Delta. Does the government actually believe that this is what will happen in the Elbow River Valley?

Anyone who has witnessed flooding in an alpine setting will recognize this as complete foolishness.  The proposed “dry dam” will provide a shallow catchment basin for mountain sediment and rock grindings and would turn 4000 acres of pristine and beautifully protected land into a vast mud flat, and negatively impact a further 2800 acres. Rock grindings are inorganic and will kill grass rather than fertilize it.

The dam will cause water to back up over the low lying area adjacent to Highway 22, south of the No 1 Highway interchange. In fact, Highway 22 will have to be rerouted or raised through that area.

After a flood, that pristine valley immediately west of Calgary will turn into a wasteland. Moreover, as the sediment dries out, the valley will become a huge dust bowl and the prevailingly westerly winds will carry the dust into our City.

Residents of Exshaw know all about problems with rock dust. Has the government asked the folks in Springbank and West Calgary how they’ll feel about rock dust?

Come to think of it, has Gordon Dirks actually listened to anyone about this project, other than Premier Prentice? Mr. Dirks has stated his reason for running is: “I’m working with Premier Prentice to build the Springbank Dry Dam upstream on the Elbow River to protect Elbow residents from future flooding.” That’s it? The self-styled education expert is also a hydrologist?

The fact is that Gordon Dirks is running to get reelected to high office and he thinks he can win votes in his riding by making grand promises. It’s the PC way.

But Prentice, Dirks and the PCs are running roughshod over the rights and needs of everyone upstream of the Springbank Dry Dam, and are refusing to tell people downwind of the Springbank Dry Dam about the real impact that it will have on their lives.

On May 5, as they walk into the polling booth, all voters – but especially those in West Calgary, Springbank, Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows – should thank God they live in Alberta and, like travel Alberta’s great commercials say: “Remember to Breathe.” And then they should take another – still dust free breath – and: Remember to Think!

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One Comment on “Dry Dam. Wet Dam. Mud Hole. Dust Bowl.”

  1. guy plecash January 2, 2016 at 1:04 AM #

    So governments can’t wade through their own regulations to mobilize public land for their pipe-dreams so they’d rather stomp private landowners out of existence? That’s stupid on so many levels one hardly knows which one to go after first.

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