AMEC Re The Elbow and Transalta Re The Bow Plus City of Calgary Update

March 12, 2014 by CRC Action Group in News

Hello Members,


This update contains a summary of some of the work AMEC is doing around the elbow River Diversion Project, Summary of CRCAG Meeting with Roger Drury of Transalta, and an update from the City of Calgary.


But first a few notes from your team at CRCAG:


  • WE ARE NOT AN EMERGENCY ADVISORY SYSTEM. Please do not rely on us for emergency reporting or other urgent information. We will provide reports such as the Spring Runoff Flood Advisory as we get them. But we are a team of volunteers and we all have full time jobs and families. We are not constantly monitoring the situation and we would hate for any of you to look no further than our updates for information. There are various places to find this information such as at


  • We are always very careful about promoting products but today we received an email saying offering homeowners in Calgary overland flood insurance. We make no representation about the program whatsoever and are currently looking into it ourselves. But given our members growing concerns we felt it appropriate to pass along the information provided: Dougal Simpson of the Beaufort Group wrote: “Many international insurers provide overland flood coverage elsewhere in the world. Since July we have been working to find a solution for overland flood insurance. We are pleased to advise that overland flood coverage is now available for homeowners of single family dwellings in Calgary. This will not be the answer for everyone, but may provide an opportunity for Calgary homeowners to insure overland flood. The program is designed to rebuild and repair people’s homes including basics such as the furnace, hot water tanks, air conditioners, but not to replace their contents eg tv’s, computers, personal effects, furniture. For further details please see .  The website includes a simple application form that can be completed for people who are interested in obtaining a quotation. Then the homeowner can decide if they wish to purchase coverage”. We have also been advised by Lee Rogers of Rogers Insurance that they have been able to secure some overland flow flood insurance. As noted, these are not solutions for everyone. 


  • In the US, the IRS allows for deductions of losses suffered in a natural disaster including from floods. While the DRP does rely on Federal funding, it has proven to be a terrible experience and unreliable means of relief. A tax credit proposal might offer some solutions to devastated homeowners.  We would like explore this further with tax experts and Federal Representatives. 


  • MEMBERSHIP DRIVE Volunteers Needed: We realize that not all of our neighbors know that we exist. We are looking for volunteers to help us with an upcoming membership drive. We need someone to help us manage the printing and distribution of materials throughout impacted communities. If you can help with this please reach out. Our new website is close to completion and will make it easier for you to share information and access our archives of data. 


  • We have a lot more to report in coming days with the Water Collaborative and Vacant Lot Update coming soon. 




1. AMEC Work Regarding Dry Dam/Diversions for the Elbow River

On Thursday, March 6th, members of the Flood Advisory Panel (Allan Markin, Robert Samaska and Richard Lindseth), Amec (Ken Kress) and CRCAG (Emma May and Jack Davis) met at the offices of AMEC.


Ken Kress of AMEC has 40 years experience in dam building and the South Saskatchewan Basis. He notes that the Elbow River flood potential and risks were studied and reported on in significant detail nearly 30 years ago.  Works such as a dry dam were recommended at the time. Mr. Kress presented us with maps of the possible detention dam sites and a solid review of the engineering behind the chosen locations. Mr. Kress’ experience in this very area and depth of knowledge was very impressive. On March 17th further geological testing of the sites will be initiated. Mr. Kress will be presenting a comprehensive formal report to the Alberta Government at the end of the month.


The group then took a helicopter tour up the Elbow River watershed to see firsthand the chosen sites. Mr. Kress explained his proposals throughout the flight and gave us rough estimations of the potential of these sites to mitigate flooding in Calgary and in other vulnerable communities.


We look forward to the release of the detailed engineering plan that Mr. Kress is  preparing.  As these plans to mitigate become ever more detailed they also become more actionable. Proposals to build dams have been recommened in the past but have never enjoyed the sustained political support that is required to get a project committed to and completed. It is imperative that we keep this political will alive and that we continue to press for detailed timelines of the projects. These are projects that would typically require extensive regulatory reviews requirements and we are asking our government to streamline this process as best they can in the face of the urgent situation that is before us.


2. CRCAG Meeting with TransAlta Mar 10, 2014


Members of the CRCAG Steering Committee and a few residents of the Sunnyside community met with Mr. Roger Drury, TransAlta Hydro Operations.


An overview of the TransAlta Bow Hydro System was presented, along with the chronology of communication TransAlta received from the Alberta River Forecasting Centre (RFC), the impact TransAlta had on reducing the peak flow at Calgary, the approach TransAlta will take for future flood seasons.


The majority of TransAlta’s facilities are situated on tributaries of the Bow River (exceptions are the Ghost Lake, Kananaskis, Horseshoe and Bearspaw facilities). There are six storage reservoirs (Lake Minnewanka, Spray Lake, Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lake, Barrier Lake, Ghost Lake) and three run of river facilities (Kananaskis, Horseshoe, Bearspaw). TransAlta’s facilities were specifically designed as hydroelectric facilities and continue to operate in such a manner.


The six hydroelectric reservoirs operate to store water during high flow periods and release during low flow periods. The management of the six hydroelectric reservoirs are focused around preserving the structural integrity of the dams, optimizing energy production over the year, minimizing the use of spillways, and maximizing water storage in the reservoirs.


The three run of river facilities ensure that a headpond is created for hydroplant intake so that energy can be produced. These facilities do not have enough storage to regulate flow.


On June 15, 2013, TransAlta was notified by the RFC that a storm event was developing over the Pacific and was expected to impact Alberta on June 19/20, with a possibility of 100-150mm of precipitation over the Bow River Basin.


TransAlta waited on the RFC to provide further details regarding the location of where the high precipitation would be focused. On June 18, 2013, RFC confirmed its original forecast from June 15.


On June 19, 2013 at 12:45PM a high streamflow advisory was issued for Bow/Elbow/Highwood Rivers, with a possible rainfall of 100-150mm by June 21.


On June 20, 2014 at 8:45AM, a flood warning was issued for Bow River tributaries upstream of Calgary and a flood watch warning was issued for Bow River upstream of Calgary and the City of Calgary. During the day, all river gauge station information was lost from Ghost River, Waiparous Creek, Jumpingpound Creek, Kananaskis River, Bow River at Seebe, and Bow River at Ghost due to high water and communication issues. At 12:45PM a flood warning was issued for Bow River through Calgary. The actual rainfall in much of the river basin upstream of Calgary ranged from 150 – 250mm by the morning of June 21.


During the 24 hours prior to the peak flow at Calgary, the TransAlta facilities at Lake Minnewanka, Spray Lake, and Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lake released minimal water, whereas the facilities at Barrier and Ghost Lakes released water to maintain the structural integrity of the dams. In total, TransAlta stored 138,256,290 cubic meters of floodwater and estimated that this led to a reduction in the flood peak flow by approximately half in Canmore and approximately 300 cubic meters/s at Calgary.


Looking into the future for how TransAlta can play a role in flood mitigation, there is the possibility of drawing down reservoir levels at the Barrier and Ghost Lakes facilities, given that sound weather forecasting, prediction, and river monitoring data is available in advanced. It is estimated that manipulations of reservoir levels at Barrier and Ghost Lakes could shave off another 300 cubic meters/s at Calgary (based on the June 2013 conditions).


TransAlta is working closely with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development to improve and obtain more accurate weather forecasting, prediction, and river monitoring data. TransAlta and the Government of Alberta Flood Recovery Task Force continue their discussions on a collaborative effort for future flood mitigation.

3. City of Calgary River Flood Mitigation Program Update.


River Flood Mitigation Program

Found at


The City of Calgary and other communities in southern Alberta experienced one of the worst floods in living memory in June 2013. Many communities, including Calgary, experienced significant upheaval and damage to public and private property. In response to the flood, The City has established a program to review Calgary’s flood response measures and mitigation efforts and to investigate ways of reducing and managing river flood risks to Calgary in the future.


An Expert Management Panel of nationally and internationally recognized experts has been created to employ a wide-ranging process to examine, evaluate and prioritize environmental, infrastructure and policy measures that would significantly reduce the potential harm from floods. The Panel and The City are working closely with the Province since many of the possible solutions will require Provincial support and coordination of effort.


Update from the Panel

The Panel has released two studies – Dredging of the Glenmore Reservoir and Elbow River Mission Barrier Performance Evaluation. These studies were completed by independent consultants who are internationally recognized for engineering and environmental services expertise.


Report 1 – Dredging of the Glenmore Reservoir – Consultant Klohn Crippen Berger

The purpose of this report was to determine if dredging the Glenmore Reservoir (to increase storage capacity) would significantly improve downstream flood mitigation. Download the report.


The independent consultant concluded that dredging the reservoir would have negligible flood mitigation benefits. Details include:

An increased storage capacity in the reservoir would have had little impact on a flood of the same magnitude as the 2013 flood.


Recovering storage space lost to sedimentation over time, would have quickly been used up due to the magnitude of the flood waters entering the reservoir.

Even under a less extreme flood (1:50 year level), increased reservoir storage would have only had a two per cent reduction in the outflows coming out of the reservoir, which is deemed to be a negligible amount.

Dredging of the reservoir raises other concerns:

Dredging stirs up sediment in the reservoir that can adversely impact the quality of Calgary’s drinking water.

The negligible benefits would only be temporary as the increased storage would fill with sediment over time.

The costs for dredging would be significant.


Report 2 – Elbow River Mission Barrier Performance Evaluation – Consultant Golder Associates


The objective of this study was to examine, in detail, the hydraulic performance of the Mission Barrier (along Elbow Dr. S.W. between 4th St. S.W. and Cliff St.) as it affected flows in the main channel of the Elbow River and along overland flow routings including: quantifying water levels, flow rates, depths, and velocities; the extent of the flood inundation; and erosion potential. Download the report.


The independent consultant analyzed the performance of the Mission Barrier and concluded that the Mission Barrier appears to have been effective in eliminating direct overland flows from the Elbow River flowing north towards downtown. As well, depending on the location and modeling method used, the maximum water level difference was 0.16m (at Mission Bridge) and 0.28m (at 25th Avenue Bridge).

The conclusions reached by the consultant show that the reduction in the severity of the flood waters flowing into Mission and the downtown core resulted in:

the protection of public safety;

the protection of critical public infrastructure, including the roadway network thereby ensuring access for emergency vehicles; and

the reduction of flood damage that the Beltline and downtown core would have experienced.

Based on these findings, the Panel recommends The City continue to include the Mission Barrier in their Emergency Response Plans. The City is now taking this report under advisement.

Update – Glenmore Feasibility Study

A request for proposals was sent out December 23 (closed January 24), seeking a qualified engineering consulting firm to conduct a feasibility study to divert flows into the Glenmore Reservoir including analysis of the hydraulics and constructability, and the merits of two alternative diversion routes for a flood bypass from the Glenmore Reservoir to the Bow River.

The successful proponent is expected to be announced the week of March 17, 2014.

Public Input

Almost 200 submissions were received from Calgarians between September and November 2013, with ideas on how to mitigate flood risk in our city. The intention was to gather a variety of ideas to help inform the Panel’s work. The ideas can be summarized as follows:

More/improved berms in areas at risk for flooding

Creation of diversion tunnels

Building upstream storage and dams; controlling river flow

No longer allowing development in flood plains

Protecting critical/public infrastructure

Changing building codes and standards in flood zones

Improving the storm water system

Dredging the rivers around the city

Dredging Glenmore Reservoir

Enhancing and updating flood mapping and analysis

Improving river monitoring and event forecasting

Protecting river banks

Improving early warning for citizens

Reviewing concerns regarding flood insurance

Enhancing public information and education efforts


Flood Mitigation Program

The Panel has categorized this input into the six theme areas, each supported by a panel of subject matter experts who will determine if, and how this input, including reviewing benefits, challenges, feasibility and cost, can be incorporated into the recommendations from the Panel to City Council in June 2014.

Thank you to those who provided their ideas!

On-going Work

While the panel is focused on Calgary-specific solutions, we have to make sure we understand the options upstream and impacts downstream so that recommendations for solutions don’t help one community by hindering another. Because jurisdiction outside of Calgary’s boundary is Provincial, the Panel is working in close collaboration with the Province and other agencies.

The panel is continuing work in the six theme areas, each supported by a panel of subject matter experts.

Evaluating options

Options will be considered according to The City of Calgary’s Triple Bottom Line policy, which in addition to direct flood mitigation takes into account:

Social impacts

Impacts to the environment

Impacts to the local economy


The work of the Panel is expected to run from August 2013 until approximately July 2014.

Recommendations for funding will be included in The City’s 2014 capital budget process. The panel will be presenting a final report to Council in June. For more information on the City’s Expert Management Panel on River Flood Mitigation you can read the Panel’s terms of reference or learn more about the Panel’s members.