Hypocrisy and Bias

November 23, 2017 by CRC Action Group in News

Interesting read in the Calgary Herald this week about the latest ploy to derail the critical public safety infrastructure project known as the Springbank Off-stream Reservoir.  The Springbank project has garnered much attention in the media since it was first announced over three years ago – largely because it will require the purchase of private land in order to build a cost-effective, safe and hugely important piece of flood mitigation to finally protect the City of Calgary from flooding on the Elbow River.


Remember 2013?


That was bad.  But it wasn’t the worst our fair City has seen – much larger floods have devastated Calgary in the past, and more will do so in the future if critical projects – like the Springbank project – are not completed along the Elbow and Bow Rivers. 


Expropriating private land to build public works to benefit the larger community is never an easy thing and rarely without controversy – but it happens.  All. The. Time.  Without it, we wouldn’t have the LRT routes we enjoy through Calgary today.  We wouldn’t have the roadways and interchanges that keep traffic flowing in our ever-growing City.  You get the picture.


What’s surprising though is the twist this particular controversy took this week.  The small group of impacted landowners opposed to the Springbank project have long taken the position that the project will “destroy their community” and will take away their heritage ranchland.  Destroying the community of Springbank is a stretch once you understand the facts (see below if facts matter to you), but there is no doubt, some ranchland is impacted.  However, it’s hard to reconcile the very vocal position over the last several years of a core group of Springbank landowners, with the announcement this week that several of these landowners have entered into a joint development venture with a tract housing developer to build a “master-plan community” on almost 1700 hectares of land right in the middle of where the dry dam will be built – tentatively to be called Copithorne Ranch. 



Wait – what?


How does “paving paradise” to build a suburb, complete with streets, sewer systems, infrastructure for utilities and all the disruption that comes along with plopping a massive residential community in the middle of heritage ranchland not “destroy the community” andtake away use of this land for ranching?


Some may see this as a ploy to kill the Springbank project – by artificially inflating the cost of the land to be purchased.  Licia Corbella who wrote the article seems to see it that way – based on her headline – “Springbank dry dam opponents trying new strategies to block project”.



So what is this really?


Are these opponents to the project so dead set against their land being used to provide critically needed flood mitigation to protect the economic engine of Western Canada that lies just a few kilometres down the road, that they are willing to pave it over and build a new suburb? Or does it show their true colours – which perhaps all along have been to extract a price for their land that doesn’t reflect the true, current market value (Note: original cost/benefit studies generously pegged land value at $10,000/acre)? Keep in mind this land has long been used as pasture land and currently has no zoning in place that would permit the so-called “Copithorne Ranch” master-plan community.


Hard to say.  But the hypocrisy is hard to miss. As is the bias in this article – which fails to point out the many logical inconsistencies in this latest strategy to block the project.  Maintaining the multi-generational integrity of ranchland apparently can be compromised, if the price is right.


And the position taken by the Tsuut’ina Nation this year has been equally hard to follow.  Years after the Springbank project was first announced, the Tsuut’ina surprisingly voiced opposition – raising an, as yet, unsubstantiated concern about impacts to their ground water on land nearly half a kilometre upstream from the project on their reserve lands – which, by the way, will be protected by local mitigation long before the Springbank project is ever operational.  Then – in an interesting twist – the Tsuut’ina suggested building an off-stream storage site directly on their reserve land instead of at the Springbank location.  All we can say is that we’ll find it quite confounding if the Tsuut’ina are not even more concerned about the potential impact to their traditional land use by the proposed “Copithorne Ranch”, than they are about the Springbank project.   A sub-division of tract housing will fundamentally and irrevocably change the land’s use, whereas, ironically, the Springbank project preserves it from future development forever more.



Time for action


It seems like it’s time for Alberta Transportation to take real action to move this project toward completion.  Expropriate the land that is needed – and expropriate it now.  Anddon’t purchase a square inch more than is needed.  Because your generous offer (see below) to do so was turned right back on you to say the project’s costs had skyrocketed.  Enough already.  Get it done.



For those with an interest in the facts:


How many residences actually exist within the water storage area of the Springbank project? 1


How many more residences actually exist within the footprint of the whole Springbank project? 4


How many acres are actually required for the project? 3610


Why is the government offering to purchase up to 22 residences? In response to feedback received from affected landowners, the government announced this summer that it will optionally – at the discretion of the impacted landowner – purchase any full quarter-section (160 acres) parcel of land touched by the project’s footprint – at a price of $20,000 per acre. 


For example, if an acre across the corner of your land was needed for the Springbank project, and you didn’t want to sell just the acre but preferred to sell the entire quarter-section (which may include your house) – the government has offered to accommodate that request and will purchase the entire quarter-section (including your house).  If every single landowner took up the offer – the total land area purchased would be 6800 acres.  Once the project is completed, the government intends to sell back into the market any purchased lands that are outside of the actual footprint of the project – thereby reducing the overall project cost.  But this is an option only. 


So no – there are not 22 homeowners that must sell their houses to the province.  There are 5 residences within the footprint – and whether they need to be sold or moved to higher ground depends on their specific location.  Interesting fact – several landowners have already sold their land to the government for this project.


What’s the story with Kamp Kiwanis? Kamp Kiwanis was significantly damaged by the 2013 flood.  The Kamp can stay.  Most of it is not impacted by the Springbank project.  The government has committed to work with the Kamp to ensure its continued use including access to the Elbow River.

Read more here.


And you may find this summary useful on many key facts about why the Springbank project is the first choice of all three levels of government.