Springbank cost increased, Province begins protections for Bow River basin

August 31, 2017 by CRC Action Group in News

Estimated cost for Springbank Project now $432M, Province begins implementing protections for Bow River basin


On August 11, the Government of Alberta published a news release that provided updates on the Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir project and that outlined possible options for the Bow River basin.


Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir


The Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir project cost is now estimated at $432 million, up from the most recent estimate of $263 million.


The cost has increased for a couple of important reasons:


  • increased construction and engineering work needed to meet updated design requirements, which is not surprising for any large project as engineering work advances,
  • the intention by the province to purchase landowners’ entire quarter-section parcels beyond the actual footprint of the project, bringing the total amount of land potentially purchased to approximately 6800 acres, well beyond the project need of 3610 acres.


Regarding the purchase of additional land, Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason explained that the purchase wasn’t needed for Springbank construction but was a response to feedback from landowners who preferred the province buy their entire property. “By responding to this feedback, we will be able to more effectively negotiate a fair purchase of the land needed to build a project which will protect hundreds of thousands of Albertans,” said Mason. The province has ascribed a price per acre in deriving its new cost estimates and for the purposes of its discussions with landowners, as an alternative approach to expropriation of just the acreage needed for the project footprint itself (which remains an option).


Unused land will be resold after the project is complete, resulting in an estimated net cost of $372 million. The McLean Creek option is currently estimated to cost $406 million, though it has not undergone the more extensive engineering and cost estimate analysis that has been done for the Springbank project.


At the recent open houses, even with new cost estimates, the cost/benefit analysis done shows the Springbank project is still the better option on that one metric, at 1.68 vs 1.43 for the McLean Creek project.


It should be mentioned that the Springbank reservoir has been criticized as not being a drought mitigation project. That’s correct. But neither is the McLean Creek project. That has been engineered to have a relatively small pond behind it in order to blunt debris flow in the event of a flood, for operational purposes, but it should not be mistaken for a water reservoir. Both projects have been described by the province as “dry” facilities, and both would require additional engineering, regulatory approvals and construction infrastructure to be converted to operate as drought protection reservoirs. And currently, for Calgary’s water needs, the Glenmore Reservoir can accommodate 3 million people, well beyond its current draw.


The materials presented at the open houses are available online here.


The link to the province’s website on the Springbank project, including a new animation is available here.


And some media reports on this recent announcement:



Bow River basin


The province has begun implementing advice from the Bow River Water Management Project report, the Bow River Working Group‘s final report that was submitted to the provincial government earlier this year.


The report outlines both short and long-term options for protecting the Bow River basin, and the announcement explained that “possible options for upstream storage include new potential storage sites and a further modification of TransAlta reservoir operations.”


A few of the short-term options the province is working on immediately include:


  • Discussions with TransAlta to extend and expand the current agreement on modified operations, including the addition of Spray Lake and Lake Minnewanka to the agreement and using Barrier Lake for flood mitigation purposes rather than drought mitigation.
  • Discussions with Irrigation Districts to improve water retention for agricultural use downstream of Calgary.
  • A feasibility study on increasing the drawdown rate at the Ghost Reservoir.
  • Initiating feasibility studies for potential long-term projects identified in the report.


On July 26, we wrote to the Honourable Minister Shannon Philips, Minister of Environment and Parks and the Minister Responsible for the Climate Change Office, MLA for Lethbridge-West, requesting that she make this report public. The full report is now available publicly and can be accessed here.


The full news release from the Government of Alberta can be read here.


If you have any questions or comments regarding this information, please reach out to us at info@crcactiongroup.com.




Your CRCAG Board