Your Letters on the Floodway Development Regulation

March 6, 2017 by CRC Action Group in News

Following our last post regarding the current status of the Provincial Government’s flood hazard mapping exercise, and the “Floodway Development Regulations” now under development, we’ve received from our Members copies of numerous letters to Municipal Affairs Minister Anderson. What follows is a sample of these that the authors have graciously allowed us to share. They are all worth reading:




The Honourable Shaye Anderson, Minister of Municipal Affairs,
I’m writing this letter in the hope that you will re-consider a meeting with CRCAG, the Calgary River Communities Action Group, in regards to the recent proposed Floodway Development Regulation (FDR) and other flood-related policies.


I hope that you will take the time to read my letter. Full disclosure: I’m not part of this group, I’m not friends with any members of the group, and I’m not involved with them. I just get their emails and read the information they post on their site. My parents’ home in Bowness was largely destroyed by the flood in 2013 and I’ve attended many post-flood meetings and open houses.


I greatly appreciate CRCAG for the work its members have done since the 2013 flood. CRCAG members were the ones keeping us informed right from the start. CRCAG posted information about the DRP (Disaster Recovery Process) when we were all struggling with the process, they posted information about where to go for help and they kept us encouraged because we knew that someone was watching out for all the flood victims, regardless of where they lived or what they were dealing with. CRCAG looked at flood mitigation as a city-wide concern, not just something for those living directly along the banks of the rivers. I have a lot of respect for what the group has accomplished.


For the past few days, I’ve been watching TV footage of the Oroville Dam in northern California. At one point 200,000 residents downstream from the dam were evacuated. I’ve watched with a mixture of fascination (the incredible force and power of nature) and dread (knowing what’s to come if a wave of water floods the communities below).


This déjà vu brings me right back to June 20, 2013, the night many areas of Calgary were evacuated. The entire city lay helpless as the waters of the Bow and Elbow raged angrily higher. Watching the Bow change from the river we raft on and run or bike alongside to an incredible force of 1800 cubic meters per second showed me that what we consider one of Calgary’s greatest attractions could also become the instrument of destruction. We can’t assume we will know how the river will “behave” and we can’t take it for granted.


In the Oroville Dam area, the worst appears over and residents are returning home. In Calgary, it’s easy to forget the flood ever happened. Bigger questions remain. The media is now asking about Oroville, “how would we let this happen?” and “why wasn’t anything done sooner?”. We’ll be asking the same thing about Calgary again if we don’t get some major infrastructure projects built on both the Elbow and the Bow. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard people say things like, “it was a one in a hundred year flood, it won’t happen again soon” or “they won’t let that happen again; they must have done something to prevent that”. Well, “they” have started, but no large-scale mitigation projects are underway to protect Calgary, especially not on the Bow. Sure, the Ghost reservoir water levels are lowered in the spring, the Glenmore Dam will be heightened, riprap has stabilized miles of riverbanks and the Zoo and Stampede have protected their properties. But for the rest of us, we uneasily look at the snowpack and nervously consider spring rains and we wonder what might still come.


So why haven’t we started building a dam upstream or taken some major measures? It’s complicated: environment, land usage, property rights, etc., but it all comes down to money as well. It’s going to be expensive. Very expensive, especially in current financial times. However, we always find money to deal with a disaster, just not to prevent it in the first place. Money also doesn’t account for the stresses, mental and physical toll, time lost from work and the changes made to many lives.


It’s probably safe to say that most of us don’t want another flood. I don’t want to spend the better part of a year rebuilding my parents’ home and I certainly don’t want to spend almost two years fighting the DRP (Disaster Recovery Program). I don’t want to again stand in the muck throwing out precious photos and Christmas ornaments and a thick package of 53-year-old blue-vellum envelopes, the precious letters from Europe during my parents’ first years in Canada. Too hard, too stressful, too daunting to contemplate.


There is a group that feels the same way, the Calgary River Communities Action Group, CRCAG. They have been very active since June of 2013 and part of their mandate is to advocate for the construction of large-scale flood mitigation infrastructure for both the Bow and Elbow Rivers. They also realize how stressful the flood was for anyone involved in it, and the recent proposed new flood hazard maps are another thing for homeowners to now worry about. CRCAG understands the issues because they lived them.


CRCAG is a grassroots organizations and its members are volunteers. That astounds me when I consider all the work they’ve done. Check out the website: Read all the documentation, the meeting details, the letters they’ve sent, the information they’ve amassed…….. and then remember that this is a volunteer group. I’m sure there have been many days since the flood where each member has wished they would have never gotten involved in the first place.


Recently, CRCAG sent out a mail about the new flood hazard maps and the floodway development regulations (FDR).


The implications of the FDR is yet one more stress and uncertainty for flood victims. Please meet with CRCAG to discuss this. They represent many, many individual homeowners and stakeholders. They are knowledgeable and informed and many of us count on them to represent our concerns.
Their voice deserves a chance to be heard.
Thank you for your time and consideration.




Minister Anderson,


I am a resident of East Elbow Park and am therefore keenly interested in the topics noted above. Given the tremendous amount of positive and valuable work done by the Calgary River Communities Action Group (the “Group”) and the breadth of the interests represented by the Group, I am astounded that not a single elected representative of the Alberta Government has seen fit to meet with representatives of the Group. Your refusal (by letter dated February 7, 2017) to meet with the Group is just the latest example of this failure by the Government. While I can perhaps understand a reluctance to meet with residents on an individual basis (although the MLA for our neighbourhood has shown no such reluctance), the refusal of the Government to meet with representatives of the Group to receive the views, and hear the concerns, of the Group’s broad constituency is something I cannot understand.


I would urge you to show leadership by meeting with the Group before making decisions that impact all of us affected by the steps being proposed by your Government.




Minister Anderson,


I completely agree and support the CRCAG’s position on Flood Hazard Maps and Floodway Development Regulations. The CRCAG agrees that it makes sense to have restrictions on floodway development in “greenfield” areas that are not currently developed. But it simply does not make sense within Calgary, where most areas that will be in the newly defined floodway have had substantial development on them for 100+ years.


I strongly agree with the CRCAG in that the new flood hazard maps and the FDR are inextricably linked together and should be developed in an integrated process, and implemented within the overall reality of Calgary’s current and anticipated flood management infrastructure and land use development.


My concern, along with the CRCAG, is that the exact reverse is unfolding – that is, the FDR will be approved based on the existing floodway perimeter (which in Calgary includes only 50 residential properties), and subsequently updated flood hazard maps will be released encompassing hundreds, if not thousands, of additional business and residential properties in the floodway. Our concern is also that existing or planned infrastructure will be ignored in updating the flood mapping and applying the FDR. Together, this could practically result in commensurate damage to the 2013 flood itself: huge property value loss and involving properties well beyond areas that were actually wet at that time (which resulting tax-base loss would have to be covered by the rest of the City).


I strongly urge that an FDR exemption must be made for Calgary businesses and residents already established within the flood hazard zone, just as proposed for other well-established municipalities long ago built along rivers, such as Fort McMurray and Drumheller. This must clearly happen before the revised flood hazard maps are released, so that confusion and value destruction are minimized. Sensible, long term development rules should be established so that flood mitigation at the individual property level is gradually adopted through the natural evolution of developed areas.


Thank you for your attention to our concerns.




Dear Honourable Minister Shaye Anderson,


I am concerned about the floodway development regulations that will be in place once the floodway mapping project is complete.


I live in Inglewood in Calgary and there are many properties on the Bow River here that could be impacted. If the properties on the river here are deemed to be in the floodway, then no further development will be allowed. The Inglewood development guidelines and the City of Calgary want to see further densification of Inglewood and other inner city neighbourhoods where infrastructure is in place.
Restrictions on floodway development does not make sense within Calgary, where most areas that may be in the newly defined floodway have city services and had substantial development on them for 100+ years.




I am very concerned our government is not listening and using the CRCAG’s concerns and recommendations in not using flood mitigation measures in the new floodway designations in Calgary. As a person who made a large investment in the flood fringe area after the 2013 flood, by building to all new flood specifications it would not be right or fair to change the designation of my property now to floodway. The CRCAG needs to be a key component of Governments policy input before anything is released to the public in this sensitive and complex matter. Calgary needs to be exempt for the FDR the same as Ft. McMurray and Drumheller.




Dear Honourable Minister Shaye Anderson:


We understand that the Government of Alberta is in the process of developing legislative and administrative initiatives regarding floodway mapping, land use legislation in the floodway, and potentially a land caveat system. We are very disappointed that your office has been unwilling to meet with the Calgary River Communities Action Group (CRCAG) to discuss these initiatives, particularly given that they could seriously impact numerous residents and businesses surrounding the Elbow and Bow rivers in Calgary.


We fully support the submissions of the CRCAG, including its letter dated February 3, 2017 addressed to you. In that letter, CRCAG has described its focus, which we share, to advocate for upstream flood mitigation infrastructure and reasonable development policies for the floodway and flood fringe. We own and live in a 98-year-old home that was devastated by the 2013 floods. Our children’s community school was also devastated by that flood. We were not only impacted personally, but also professionally when we were not able to return to work in the downtown core for days after the flood. During these difficult economic times, Alberta cannot afford another flood in Calgary. This is the reason we and others have urged the province to move quickly on upstream flood mitigation. As CRCAG notes, it is simply not feasible to move the entire existing downtown core and surrounding tourist attractions, businesses and residential communities outside of the floodway. So the appropriate thing to do is to build infrastructure, as many cities in other areas of the country and world have, to protect their core assets. We must also not forget the five lives that were lost in the flood.


In addition to the home we own, we have purchased a lot intended for redevelopment that currently sits in the flood fringe. We purchased this lot based on representations from the prior government and your government that upstream mitigation will be built. It is now nearing 4 years post-flood, and nothing substantive has been down to protect Calgary against a similar flood. Insurance for the redevelopment has been difficult to obtain, apparently based on “new” flood hazard mapping, which we have yet to see. If floodway initiatives and land use restrictions or title caveats are developed carelessly and without thought to the impacts on property values, the government will no doubt be faced with numerous legal challenges from homeowners, like ourselves, whose property values will be negatively impacted by those initiatives.


We ask that you reconsider your decision not to meet with CRCAG and hear the important feedback it has to offer on behalf of the close to 1,000 members, including ourselves, representing communities and businesses impacted by the 2013 floods. We also ask for an update on the timing and work being done to advance the Springbank reservoir.


Thank you for considering our request. We look forward to hearing from you.




The Honourable Shaye Anderson, Minister of Municipal Affairs,


As a resident of the Erlton district of Calgary, I am dismayed to learn of the current plans to develop the FDR policy in a manner that is causing great concern to the community. The concerns that we have are hopefully obvious at this point, but can be summarized in the 2 bullets below:
1. Developing the FDR without a sensibly ordered comprehensive flood mitigation strategy that takes in to account flood mitigation infrastructure initiatives, and the to-be-updated flood hazard maps.


2. A reluctance to meet with CRAG representatives in order to engage in meaningful dialogue with the communities arguably most impacted by the FDR.


I should also add that I am very disillusioned with the wider government response to the 2013 flood. It is now 2017 – nearly 4 years after the flood, and yet the real up stream mitigation solutions such as the Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir look to be further away than ever. All the FDRs, flood mitigation maps, and other government documents are not of much value when the water level rises, unless they are printed on very absorbent paper. As a result of this wider government response, I am seriously questioning whether Calgary, or even Alberta are where I want to call home.




Dear Minister Anderson,


I am writing to you to express my dismay with your department’s lack of engagement to date with the CRCAG regarding the development of revised Flood Hazard maps and Floodway Development Regulations.
CRCAG represents close to 1000 members in the flood impacted area, including my family, and is our trusted advocate for the timely development of sensible and effective policies. Representing such a large group of stakeholder’s and governed by a Board with significant knowledge and insight, CRCAG should at the very least be entitled to a meeting, or conference call or video conference with your department on these matters. I am hopeful that you will reconsider the position expressed in your Feb 7 2017 letter, and open your calendar to a meeting with this group.


Of major concern to our family is that the government is pursuing the development of revised flood hazard maps and regulations BEFORE flood mitigation measures are in place. Clearly, when flood mitigation is complete any mapping and development regulations put in place today will no longer be accurate or relevant, requiring the process to begin yet again. We strongly believe, as CRCAG has been advocating, that the development of a comprehensive flood mitigation strategy should include three elements undertaken in a very specific, logical order:


Firstly: Design, build and operate upstream and/or local mitigation infrastructure (e.g. the Springbank Off-stream Reservoir)


Secondly: Prepare and release updated flood hazard maps that take into account flood mitigation infrastructure, in designating particular areas as ‘floodway’, ‘flood fringe’ or otherwise


Finally: Create policy and pass regulations for floodway development based on such updated flood hazard maps


We ask that you reconsider your current course of action and postpone work on flood hazard maps and floodway development regulations until the mitigation is in place.




Dear Minister Anderson:


I am writing in regard to your Government’s development of new Flood Hazard Maps and Flood Development Regulations (FDR), specifically as they apply to the city of Calgary. It appears as if the government is doing this in isolation, considering neither input from stakeholders nor upstream mitigation measures that will materially affect any future flooding, once in place.


Based on information I have been able to obtain, it does not appear that the release of the new floodway maps and the FDR are being coordinated with potentially disastrous results. It is implausible to me that any rationale government would undermine the financial health of its most important municipal area by arbitrarily developing regulations governing existing and new developments without recognizing the future impact of upstream mitigation. I hope this is not an indication that your government is not confident that the Springbank dry pond will be completed in the near future.


An FDR exemption must be made for Calgary businesses and residents already established within the flood hazard zone, just as proposed for other well-established municipalities built long ago along rivers, such as Fort McMurray and Drumheller. This must happen before the revised flood hazard maps are released, so that confusion and value destruction are minimized.


I hope that we can rely on your government to develop sensible, long-term development rules, so that flood mitigation at the individual property level is gradually adopted through the natural evolution of developed areas.


Should you wish to discuss this matter further I would be pleased to do so. However, I would recommend that you seek input from the Calgary River Communities Action Group, which represents a majority of the residents negatively impacted by the 2013 southern Alberta flood.




This e-mail is sent to express my concern about the lack of progress on upstream flood mitigation for the Elbow and Bow Rivers; as well as the potential updating of flood hazard maps for both rivers and its effect on floodway development regulations (“FDR”).


While I agree that it may make sense to have restrictions on floodway development in areas not currently developed, I strongly disagree with expanding the floodway along the Elbow and Bow Rivers and further I disagree with new regulations for, and restrictions to, development and improvements within the City of Calgary.


Development along both the Elbow and the Bow Rivers has occurred for over 100 years and to retroactively do anything which affects land values, re-sale of property, financing options, and insurability of homes and businesses would be punitive and unfair to residents and business owners who have been paying high taxes for decades. And for those of us who have had our homes and businesses flooded in 2013 and have suffered significant financial, emotional and psychological losses, doing anything further to cause hardship for inner city residents would be cruel punishment.


Additionally, any adverse impact on inner city homes and businesses when property values inevitably decline, due to an expanded floodway and or additional FDR, would simply shift the tax burden to other parts of the city.


Please ensure there will be an FDR exemption made for residents and business already established within the flood hazard zone.


Additionally, please proceed as soon as possible with:
1. upstream flood mitigation on both the Elbow and Bow Rivers;
2. ensuring that any updated flood hazard maps take into account flood mitigation infrastructure, both current and proposed.