Elbow River Flood Mitigation Infrastructure – Update

February 27, 2015 by CRC Action Group in Calgary River Communities, News

The Government of Alberta (GOA)  yesterday (Feb 26, 2015) released the Benefit-Cost Analyses of the three proposed Elbow River upstream flood mitigation projects presently under consideration by the GOA, and the Provincial Flood Damage Assessment Study upon which the benefit-cost analyses were based.  Completion of these studies is an important step toward having flood mitigation infrastructure in place to protect both Calgary and Bragg Creek.   In short, the benefit-cost analyses clearly show it is economic to proceed with any of the three Elbow River mitigation projects in a “worst case” scenario (which does not mean the worst flood Calgary has historically experienced).

A Calgary Herald article published today (Feb 27, 2015) seems to suggest the benefit-cost analysis for the Springbank reservoir project was flawed, because land acquisition costs were underestimated.  The tone of the Calgary Herald article was disappointing but not surprising, because it was not looking at the big picture.  CRCAG is not in a position to comment on the veracity of the studies; however, we can comment on the suggestion in the Calgary Herald article by the vice-president of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation that if the land costs are too high “then it starts to get into the range where … paying for the cost of the floods when they happen would be a better option”. We think this is ridiculous.

For a City like Calgary – the economic engine of Western Canada – to adopt an approach of “Flood/Repair/Repeat” rather than take measures to keep flood water out of the City, which is what sophisticated Cities have done globally for decades – would be a complete embarrassment and seriously undermine our City as a place to invest and live.  We cannot lose sight of the human element to this story – which is not told when focused on dollars and cents.  Upstream flood mitigation infrastructure is a public safety issue.  The toll on all flood impacted Albertans financially and emotionally, be it their business or home, was devastating and is certainly not an occurrence that should be repeated when it can be so economically avoided.  Let us not forget the five individuals who lost their lives as a direct result of the 2013 flooding – we cannot put a price tag on human lives.  Additionally, some of the province’s largest, most successful companies were paralyzed by the 2013 floods when the downtown core was impacted, and activity Downtown ground to a halt for a week or more, never mind that City Hall was completely flooded and took months to repair.  Incidences like this cannot repeat without a serious, long-term economic impact to the City that goes well beyond property repair.  We cannot be short sighted when making decisions of this importance – the big picture must be taken in account.
An important point to note is that the cost-benefit work for Springbank and the Glenmore Diversion Tunnel also includes an additional $8.9 million of flood mitigation measures at Redwood Meadows and Bragg Creek. The study assumes these mitigation measures would give Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows the same protection as would be provided by the McLean Creek Dry Dam.  To ensure protection to those living west of Calgary in the communities of Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows, we are supportive of such measures being taken.

The Elbow River Flood Mitigation Project Decisions fact sheet can be accessed here.

You can link to the detailed studies here.