Update from MLA Greg Clark: Elbow and Bow flood mitigation, new City of Calgary Chief Resiliency Officer

April 9, 2017 by CRC Action Group in News

The following is an update to constituents sent out by the MLA for Calgary-Elbow, Greg Clark, who has consented to us sharing his message with all CRCAG members.


On March 22nd the Flood Mitigation Measures Assessment Report and 2016 Flood Resiliency Update was presented to a City of Calgary committee. After the presentation I met with City staff responsible for the report to ask for an update on the work the City is doing on both Elbow and Bow flood mitigation, and we also discussed the new City of Calgary Chief Resiliency Officer.


Here’s a summary of our meeting.


What is the Chief Resiliency Officer?


The City of Calgary was named one of the world’s 100 Resilient Cities by the Rockefeller Foundation. This provides funding for a Chief Resiliency Officer who is tasked with creating a Resiliency Strategy.


Calgary’s strategy will have three focus areas:


– Economic Resilience (diversifying our economy to withstand downturns in energy prices)

– Climate adaptation (focused on flood mitigation)

– Social inclusion (part of the Enough for All poverty reduction strategy)


The Chief Resiliency Officer and his team will undertake a community engagement process over the next six months, and will present a priority list to City Council in early 2018.


Floodway Development Regulation


The City believes Calgary should not be subject to a “one size fits all” approach to zoning in the floodway and flood fringe. Their message to the provincial government is that “Calgary is unique” given the thousands of homes and businesses in the floodway and flood fringe, and the fact we’re a city of 1 million+ built at the confluence of two flood-prone mountain rivers. That’s not the case in other jurisdictions. Currently Ft. McMurray and Drumheller have exemptions from provincial flood rules, the City of Calgary is pushing for similar exemptions.


This would mean the province would rely primarily on upstream mitigation rather than policy-level mitigation. The City believes their current land-use bylaws work well (eg. ability to raise buildings as needed, requirement to move utilities above grade when undertaking a substantial renovation, etc.).


The city is also working to communicate to the province that upstream mitigation supports the city’s strategy to increase density, which allows for the re-use of existing infrastructure instead of building new.


When will the new flood hazard maps come out?


It is likely the updated maps won’t come out until late in 2017. These maps define risk areas (floodway and flood fringe), which determine DRP eligibility and will drive provincial policy decisions. The city is pushing the province to also communicate any development policy changes at the same time they release the maps, and I will do what I can to encourage the province to focus primarily on upstream mitigation rather than restrictive development rules.


Will there be local berming on the Elbow?


Likely not. The city will re-evaluate the possibility of requiring some local berming once Springbank and the Glenmore gates projects are complete, but current models show those projects will provide sufficient mitigation to protect to a 2013 level and beyond.


Other Local Mitigation Options


The city will consider incentives for sump pumps and backflow valves in flood areas, but only once other mitigation projects are completed.


What is “Strategic Acquisition”?


In the March 22 presentation the City talked about potentially acquiring high-risk private property currently in the floodway. I confirmed this does *not* include the purchase of any residential properties along the Elbow. There are some high-density developments along the Bow that could be candidates for purchase by the City but these decisions are still in progress.


What the plan for the Bow?


Mitigation along the Bow river is a long-term process that will likely include discussion about drought mitigation as well as flood mitigation. Realistically, it will be a matter of decades before a project is completed along the Bow (for context, the Twin Valleys dam along the Little Bow River took +/- 20 years from concept to completion in the 1980’s/90’s).


In the meantime there will be targeted berming along the Bow through Calgary.


Will Bow berming impact the water level of the Elbow?


The city assures me that there will be no backflow impact on the Elbow from any berming along the Bow river.


What is the status of the Floodway Buyout Homes?


The city believes these properties should be able to be sold back into the marketplace once Springbank and the Glenmore gates projects are complete. The city has no plans to turn these properties into parks or to use them for any mitigation or other city purposes. However, this is a provincial decision. I will follow up with the Minister of Municipal Affairs on this and will continue to push him to resell the properties as soon as possible.


Is there Federal help available?


The federal government has budgeted $400 million for disaster mitigation / flood mitigation. The provincial government plans to apply for some of this funding to support southern Alberta flood mitigation projects.


I have also spoken with MP Kent Hehr on this issue, and he assures me the federal government sees the Springbank project as a priority. He has also personally been in touch with Tsuut’ina Nation to discuss their concerns, and has encouraged the provincial government to ensure they are consulting openly and comprehensively with Tsuut’ina. Kent has personally committed to stay engaged with the project and offer whatever support he can.


Next Steps


The Flood Mitigation Measures Assessment Report and 2016 Flood Resiliency Update will be presented to City Council on April 10th, which will provide another opportunity for public input.


Also, I will have the opportunity to question Minister of Transportation Brian Mason on the Springbank project as part of the budget process. When the transcripts are available I will share those with you along with any further updates. In the meantime please do not hesitate to get in touch with me any time at the information below. 



Greg Clark, BA MBA
MLA Calgary-Elbow
Leader of the Alberta Party Opposition
Constituency Office Legislature Office
Suite 205 5014 Federal Building
5005 Elbow Drive SW 9820 107 Street NW
Calgary, AB T2S 2T6 Edmonton, AB T5K 1E7
(403) 252-0346 (780) 644-7033