Response to Joan Crockatt Letter to Prentice and Call for Flood Mitigation Solutions

September 15, 2014 by CRC Action Group in News

Recently Calgary-Centre MP Joan Crockatt wrote an open letter to Jim Prentice urging the Premier-elect to “take some real action” and “step up to the plate” for people in Calgary river communities1. The Calgary River Communities Action Group could not agree more. Many of our members have had their Disaster Recovery Program (DRP) files simply “closed” and are now facing an extended and uncertain appeal process. What is most frustrating is that those who are the least capable of advocating for themselves are the ones who need the most help. We are looking forward to our Premier-Elect revisiting the DRP, and with the help of the Federal Government, who sets the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements guidelines, jointly finding a way to make the system more streamlined and transparent.

While Ms. Crockett rightly focused on the ongoing struggle many of our members continue to have with the DRP, we at CRCAG believe that prevention of the next flood is a paramount critical challenge facing the incoming Premier.

As a city that was founded at the confluence of two rivers, it is imperative that people and property are protected from the next devastating flood that will most certainly occur. With many millions of dollars being spent on revitalizing East Village (including a $250M Library) and the push by City Council to make inner city living more affordable and populated, both Provincial and Municipal Governments need to recognize that the completion of upstream mitigation projects must match the growth and development of Calgary.

Calgary is at the forefront of economic growth compared to other major cities in Canada and is truly Canada’s Economic Engine2. To ensure that Calgary continues to be a leader in economic growth and opportunity, the Government of Alberta and City of Calgary must commit to ensuring that Calgary will be protected from another catastrophic disaster.

Historically, Calgary has seen floodwaters at peak flows 35% more than June 2013. To ignore this obvious risk to Calgary’s business core and surrounding communities is simply not acceptable. A flood event of that magnitude would shut down the entire city centre for months. Floodwaters would not only cause devastating damage to both public and private property but it would also put thousands of jobs at risk and cause a temporary and devastating shut down of our local economy. That calamity was only narrowly averted in 2013, but many downtown buildings, including City Hall, were flooded and shut down. Given that our governments are aware of this risk it would also be a great international embarrassment for Calgary and Alberta to not take all necessary action to
prevent this from happening again.

Like all great “river-cities”, we can in fact engineer our way out of this problem. We need first world solutions to be enacted immediately. All Calgarians must come together to advocate for adequate upstream mitigation to be implemented in the immediate future.

The CRCAG would like to see that the Government of Alberta consider all available options, listen carefully and deal fairly with all stakeholders who are impacted and:

Protect downtown and Elbow River communities by starting construction of the first upstream mitigation project, Springbank Diversion (SR1), by Spring 2015, with a completion time frame of two years. We would also like to see construction of the second upstream mitigation project, McLean Creek Storage Site (MC1), and potentially the third project (Glenmore Diversion Tunnel) commence Spring 2016;

Protect downtown and Bow River communities by examining environmental impacts and solidifying an agreement with TransAlta to use more than just the Ghost Reservoir for flood mitigation; to work with TransAlta to identify and regain any lost live storage capacity in the reservoirs; to conduct a feasibility study assessing the viability of contouring the area of the Ghost reservoir which prevents the reservoir from currently being lowered more than 1189.3m (given the risk of isolating pools of fish); and to assess the feasibility of utilizing the Ghost River diversion to Minnewanka for flood mitigation, all by Spring 2015.

The CRCAG believes that, regardless of the specific mitigation projects used, Calgarians should expect their city to be protected to at least 130% of the floodwaters experienced in the 2013 flood. With each upstream mitigation project in place, significantly more cubic meters of water will be held back from entering The City and every dollar spent on mitigation will prove to save lives and save many millions of dollars on repair, economic loss, lost productivity, lost investment, damaged lives and businesses.

The CRCAG would like to see the City of Calgary commit to:

Advocating on behalf of Calgarians to ensure that the Government of Alberta moves forward with upstream mitigation projects that directly impact the Elbow and Bow Rivers within the timelines suggested above;

Considering the effect of upstream mitigation measures when drafting further changes to the City land use bylaws or when making other policy that impacts landowners;

Over time, ensuring that city infrastructure (i.e. storm and sanitary sewers, river berms) are made resilient to the standard of the June 2013 flood.

If you would like to see these upstream mitigation efforts break ground by Spring 2015 to protect your home and the economic engine of Canada, now is the time to speak up! The CRCAG urges you to continue to contact your MLA and Councillors and express your support for the projects and timelines outlined above. The one-year anniversary of the 2013 flood came with anxiety and stress as the rain fell from the sky in June, but with upstream mitigation measures in place, Calgarians can be confident that the flood waters will be kept at bay from their livelihoods and homes.