CRCAG Water Collaborative and Meeting With Alberta WaterSmart Summaries

August 28, 2014 by CRC Action Group in News

Water Collaborative Update -July 17, 2014

The Water Collaborative meets monthly to review and discuss Provincial and Municipal mitigation projects.

Update on the Springbank Diversion (SR1)

The RFP for SR1 has been issued. The request for a consultancy firm to handle the final engineering and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has gone out and will close early August. To date, there has been significant work done on the environmental impact study and the next step will be determining the final design of the project. There is also a priority to continue engagement with The City of Calgary, Rockyview County, and landowners. It was also expressed that there is the intent to have an Elbow River Basin specific engagement so that all interested parties can attend.

ESRD visit to the Netherlands
The trip to the Netherlands was to determine how the Government of Alberta and the Netherlands can partner together to adopt some of the current technologies and innovations in place in the Netherlands for flood control.

Members of the ESRD learned that the Netherlands has 23 Water Boards that drive water policies in the country. There is a sophisticated system involved in the regulation of water in the Netherlands, where all 23 boards work collaboratively and seamlessly.

The Netherlands is a leader in engineering its landscape in an effort to ‘recreate nature’. Ongoing projects involve widening the rivers to allow more room for rivers to flow (started after flooding in 1995), recreation of river channels (which involved buying out some landowners and compensating and protecting those who decided to stay in the floodway), and creation of wetlands that are also designed to filter the water flowing through it.

The Netherlands has a research institute specifically devoted to applied research in the field of water and water infrastructure. The country’s land and rivers are extensively surveyed and mapped to allow for complex modeling and simulations to be performed. There is also extensive research development in the area of berm integrity and ground water.

The trip ended in the municipality of Kampen. All houses in Kampen have exterior flood protection. There are also discrete flood walls and barriers throughout the city which can be set up in the event of a flood warning. The city has a water brigade consisting of 300 volunteers that work with city employees to execute an emergency response plan when a flood warning is issued. Every volunteer has a specific task to deploy during the emergency response and annual unannounced drills are done to ensure the city has an efficient response time in the event of a flood.

Ghost Reservoir Update
On June 14, members of ESRD engaged the Summer Village Community of Ghost Lake to hear concerns regarding keeping the water level at 1189m. On July 4, ESRD instructed TransAlta that hey could gradually raise the water level in the reservoir. ESRD believes that the one-year pilot will provide some key insights, which will be forthcoming.

Alberta Community Resilience Program
Announcement of a new funding opportunity for municipalities focused on long-term planning, development and environmental sustainability.

Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program
The final program has not been finalized, however the program is intended to encourage municipalities, NGOs, not-for-profits, and First Nations to work together to implement projects that will promote watershed resiliency.

CRCAG Meeting with Alberta WaterSMART

Directors of the CRCAG met with Megan Van Ham and Mike Kelly of Alberta WaterSMART to discuss:
Key findings from the Bow Basin Flood Mitigation and Watershed Management Project specific to the Elbow and Bow rivers
Discuss specific points raised by TransAlta resulting from the meeting CRCAG Directors had with TransAlta on June 25, 2014

The objective of the Bow Basin Flood Mitigation and Watershed Management Project was to work collaboratively with multiple stakeholders to identify, examine and assess consequences and trade-offs of potential flood mitigation options for four river systems – the Highwood, Sheep, Elbow, and Bow. The findings from the project were put forward to the Government of Alberta Flood Recovery Task Force. The report can be accessed on the Alberta WaterPortal:

The modeling system, Bow River Operational Model (BROM), used in the project was developed and refined through the 2010 Bow River Project and the 2013 South Saskatchewan River Basin Adaptation to Climate Variability Project. The accuracy and credibility of the modeling system has been rigorously tested over the past several years. A flood inundation visualization tool was also established to give meaning to the impact of flood flows in the City of Calgary. Seven flood mitigation approaches (relocation, dry dams, diversions, changing existing operations, wetland storage, natural river functions, and land management) were considered and modeled for each of the four river systems. Short-, medium- and long- term mitigation opportunities were assessed for each of the river systems.

In regards to the Bow River, the most promising short-term mitigation option was to implement operational changes to existing infrastructure on the Bow owned by TransAlta. The modelling work suggested that drawing down the Ghost reservoir by ~5m and Barrier reservoir by ~3m might shave off ~600cms from the peak flow of the simulated 2013 flood. Changes in operation for flood mitigation would be relatively low in cost and could be part of a broader agreement with the entire Bow River Basin in mind, seeing operational changes across all the existing facilities as needed to provide overall watershed management improvements year-round.

TransAlta raised the point that the modeling system used in the project has perfect knowledge of what water inflows into the system would be. This is an accurate assessment and was recognized throughout the work, highlighting the continuing importance of robust forecasting. The model was built using past data collected by Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, Irrigation Demand Model, Water Survey Canada, TransAlta, and various municipalities. The model does not have the capability of predicting or adapting to emerging weather systems that may establish themselves over a given river basin; instead it uses the data available to present the bounds of what might be possible through operational changes. This does not negate the credibility of the model or the opportunities that were put forward in the Bow Basin Flood Mitigation and Watershed Management Project Report. Alberta WaterSMART agrees that sound weather forecasting, prediction and river monitoring data is required before and during a flood event to ensure optimum operations at specific reservoirs. Alberta WaterSMART believes that the pilot project on the Ghost Reservoir for this year was a positive step forward. Alberta WaterSmart is aware of the issue TransAlta has with the isolated pools of fish in the Ghost Reservoir, and both CRCAG and Alberta WaterSMART share the same opinion that it should not be a insurmountable barrier to protecting people and property downstream. Alberta WaterSMART further conveyed that the opportunity to rebuild and use the Ghost river diversion to Lake Minnewanka with potential flood mitigation capacity is not out of the realm of possibility and should be studied further to assess the impact of increased flood mitigation and flood risk to Banff, Canmore, Exshaw and Morley.

Alberta WaterSMART supports a collaborative and integrated basin-wide approach to managing the Bow River system in order to provide optimized opportunities for the environment, license holders, municipalities and other users along the river system. Alberta WaterSMART believes that from its previous and current work, various basin-wide scenarios can be presented to provide realistic measures that, if implemented, could balance drought and flood concerns, with minimal economic impact on hydroelectric generation revenues. Alberta WaterSMART and many others in the basin continue to advocate for such a collaborative and integrated basin-wide approach to river system management on the Bow River.