Diversion channel around High River proposed
Foothills: $830 million in flood mitigation work discussed
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Tuesday, Oct 08, 2013 04:43 pm
A system of berms, storage ponds and a diversion channel around High River could provide the protection foothills residents have been demanding, but it could come with a significant price tag.
The proposals were among a list of projects discussed at a provincially sponsored flood symposium in Calgary on Friday.
Provincial officials said it will take a concerted approach including a number of potential steps to provide the flood protection Albertans have been looking for.
“We have to be resilient in several different areas, it’s not just one solution to flood mitigation,” said Andre Corbould, chief assistant deputy minister, flood recovery task force.
Projects proposed at the symposium include the creation of berms and dry ponds at the headwaters of the Highwood and Elbow rivers intended to limit runoff from heavy rain and snowfall. Other berms were proposed on the Highwood and Sheep rivers in the foothills. The plan also includes an underground diversion tunnel to take excess water from the Glenmore Reservoir in Calgary.
According to the Province the plan could cost as much as $830 million. The cost of the berms alone could be between $370 million and $430 million. Two diversion projects discussed at the meeting are estimated to cost between $290 million and $400 million.
While no final decisions have been made, the Province has taken steps to expedite the process as soon as details are finalized by selecting two engineering firms, AMEC and AECOM, to work on flood mitigation projects.
Kim Capstick, flood recovery task force spokesperson, said the companies will assess projects eventually selected as best options to determine their feasibility and how successful they will be at limiting flood damage, as well as potential impacts on property values, utilities and the environment.
She said no specific projects have been identified yet, but having the engineering companies in place will allow the Province to get started on potential flood projects.
“What we wanted to do with these consulting engineers is to have them at the ready and have gone through a competitive process already so that as ideas are identified to move forward, we have consulting engineers at the ready,” she said.
With some projects proposed on rivers in the MD of Foothills, the MD’s reeve said the municipality has a lot of research of its own it could share to help determine final projects.
“We have a lot more information on the flood zone, the fringe and all of the areas. We’ve been studying it for 10 years and they’re just new to this and I hope they utilize the information that we have gathered over the years,” said Reeve Larry Spilak.
He said the Province hasn’t brought up any details of its plans with the MD of Foothills, but the municipality hopes to be at the table as specific projects are discussed.
“In fact, it sounds to me like they’re still trying to establish what the best direction is,” he said.
The Province didn’t propose a specific route for a potential diversion channel around the Town of High River.
However, candidates vying for High River’s top job support the proposal to build the diversion.
High River town councillor and mayoral candidate Jamie Kinghorn said it’s a good step to protect the Town, but it’s only one of many that need to be accomplished.
“There’s a number of projects that all lead towards flood mitigation,” he said.
For Kinghorn, it all starts to the west with the construction of reservoirs upstream.
He said other projects like removing gravel bars in the river and widening the Lineham channel on the west side of Centre Street will help to ease the flood impact in High River as well.
His goal is to see a target of less than 500 cubic meters per second (CMS) of water flowing through the Highwood River during high water periods. It’s not yet known just how much water flowed through the town in June’s flood, but provincial monitoring equipment showed levels well in excess of 1,200 CMS before they were washed out.
High River mayoral candidate Craig Snodgrass said a diversion is a necessary step.
“We have to get that done,” he said. “I’m glad to see that, rather than saying yeah we’re gonna do it, that they’re actually proposing some solutions.”
He said he doesn’t want to create a new waterway and would prefer directing water along existing waterways ones like Tongue Creek, north of the Town.
He said he doesn’t like the idea of building dams, but he supports building berms and dry ponds to hold water upstream during heavy rain events like the one that caused this year’s floodWhat is the next step? Who is coming up with the diversion ideas to be discussed? Is there any time line in place? .