Province reviewing Redwood Meadows damaged berm
Bragg Creek: Community hoping for funds for mitigation and to divert Elbow River
By: By Carmen Solana-Martin
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 09:18 am
The only community in Southern Alberta to withstand the Elbow River’s rage during the June flood is asking the Province for mitigation funds so they can survive the next one.
Redwood Meadows, a townsite of 1,200 residents in 351 homes, located along the Elbow River on Tsuu T’ina Nation land, built a berm in the late 1990’s to protect their community from flooding.
For three days during June’s flooding 600 volunteers, residents, Redwood Meadows Emergency Services and Tsuu T’ina First Nation and townsite officials fought the raging river saving the community from complete devastation.
“The river flowed as fast as 960 cubic meters per second during the peak of the flood and it was as high as 15 feet in some areas,” said Welsh. “It was highest run ever recorded in our community’s history.”
Though it breached the berm they were able hold the waters back by using pit run and 1,400 large cement blocks to reinforce the berm.
Although the community was unscathed, but the flood caused the river to change course, moving it dangerously close to Highway 22, the only access to Redwood Meadows.
As a result, the townsite is asking for approval from Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) to redirect the river as well as provincial funds to rebuild the berm.
“Our citizens are concerned about community safety and we want to ensure that we are prepared for another major flood event which is quite likely,” said Welsh.
ESRD representatives are visiting to the community today (Oct. 23) to make an assessment based on the townsite’s request to redirect the river.
“Hopefully they will look at our request and approve it,” said Welsh.
Redwood Meadows does have support from the Official Opposition.
On Oct. 18, Chestermere-Rocky View MLA Bruce McAllister and Wildrose leader Danielle Smith toured the berm with Welsh.
Smith said since townsite has made a significant financial investment and flood mitigation she would like measures put in place to divert the flood water past the community.
Welsh estimated that the community’s homes are valued between $150 million to $175 million.
“Flood mitigation is cheaper than the amount of money the province would need to spend after the community is flooded,” said Smith. “Spend $5 million to protect $125 million.
“It’s a no brainer.”
The Province is denying the request to alter the course of the river in order to protect the new fish habitat said Welsh.
“We are working with the Province to redirect the river and so far the response has been hesitant,” he said. “I think they are in a difficult position trying to protect the fish habitat, but our environment has changed and it is difficult to argue that we are going to protect these fish habitats that were not there before June.
“The irony is that the current fish habitat that was only created because of our flood response.”
According to ESRD spokesperson Nikki Booth the Province is now investigating to see if Redwood Meadows qualifies for funding from the Flood Recovery Erosion Control Program (FREC) to reinforce the berm.
Booth said if a community wants to make any changes to a water body they must apply under the provincial Water Act and Public Lands Act for authorization to conduct the work.
“Once this is complete, they can make an application under the FREC program for funding, if it is determined that they are eligible to do so,” said Booth. “We would then assess the application based on whether the structure is appropriately designed and we would ensure that the structure does not negatively impact adjacent landowners or flood levels.”
The Province estimated it will cost $2.8 million to rebuild the berm and redirect the river, but the townsite’s engineering company estimated the cost would be as high as $5 million said Welsh.
To date, the townsite has received just over $1 million from the Province, and while Welsh said the townsite is satisfied with that financial response to the community’s flood relief efforts he hopes they will receive substantially more funding.