Flood Symposium Update and Comments

October 8, 2013 by CRC Action Group in Calgary River Communities, News

On October 4th members of the Calgary River Communities Action Group attended the Flood Symposium Hosted by the Government of Alberta.

This is the link to the video and slideshows that were presented at the Symposium. http://alberta.ca/flood-symposium.cfm

We were thrilled to see the public presentation of Allan Markin’s Flood Advisory Panel recommendations for several berms upstream and bypasses that will greatly help the City of Calgary and Town of High River cope with rising river flows.

We applaud the Government of Alberta’s sense of urgency. While we all want to see construction of these projects begin immediately we must not forget that there are regulatory processes that must be respected. We have heard of some excellent examples of collaboration between all levels of government in this regard and we continue to ask all our representatives to proceed with this same sense of urgency. Do it once and do it right, but restore confidence in these communities by doing it as promptly as possible.

Infrastructure is just one of the solutions that were presented at the Symposium. We believe it to be the most significant solution but protection and management of our headwaters and watersheds on an ongoing basis must not be overlooked. While it is unrealistic to think that environmental policy decisions alone can protect us from the catastrophic damage that was caused this June, we recognize their great benefit.

The Government of Alberta has been very clear in it’s intention to prevent further development in the floodway. It has been suggested by some that this would be a very simple solution to all of the flooding problems we face. However, a hundred years ago decisions were made to establish and grow Calgary at the confluence of the Bow and the Elbow Rivers. Much of the city centre is at risk of flooding. It is simply not a practical solution to move downtown Calgary and all of the surrounding communities. Using infrastructure to prevent the water from reaching us is a practical and achievable solution, as was demonstrated at the Symposium. The Government of Alberta’s policy decision with regards to new greenfield development is absolutely the right approach, but moving the city’s core and the vibrant and established inner city communities is unfeasible and exactly why the Advisory Panel was appointed in the first place.

We are also aware that a number of groups have raised valid concerns about the environmental impact of the infrastructure solutions that were presented. It is our belief that the panel did an excellent job in identifying solutions that are environmentally benign. We would also like to stress that the environmental impact of the flood itself was devastating. Our landfill was overwhelmed and the toxicity of the contents of bridges, homes, cars and other debris in our rivers should not be underestimated. River banks have eroded and rivers now have new paths. Prevention of this kind of devastating environmental damage must be a priority. Environmental stewardship demands that rivers not be allowed to sweep through businesses and residences.

CRCAG remains committed to see its three objectives realized: the creation and implementation of effective and beneficial public policy; the development of a sensible overland flood and other disaster insurance regime; and, critically, flood mitigation infrastructures and policies to protect all of southern Alberta. We appreciate everyone’s ongoing direction and support.