MD seeks $27 million from Province for flood protection

Foothills: 31 erosion and flood mitigation projects on wishlist

By: Don Patterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014 12:03 pm

A water level meter sits on the embankment of the Highwood River just west of High River. The MD of Foothills submitted an application to the Province requesting $27 million for 31 erosion control and flood mitigation projects along foothills rivers and creeks to protect against future flood damage.
A water level meter sits on the embankment of the Highwood River just west of High River. The MD of Foothills submitted an application to the Province requesting $27 million for 31 erosion control and flood mitigation projects along foothills rivers and creeks to protect against future flood damage.
Jordan Verlage/OWW

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Foothills MD councillors are asking the provincial government for as much as $27 million for work to prevent erosion along rivers and creeks to protect against future flood damage.

The MD submitted an application for funding under the Flood Recovery Erosion Control (FREC) Program on Feb. 19 to go ahead with projects at 31 sites across the foothills.

MD Reeve Larry Spilak said the work will protect homes, businesses and infrastructure across the foothills.

“We’re focusing a lot on the residents that were harmed from the flood and we certainly want to help them, that’s first and foremost,” he said. “We want to do it on a cost effective basis.”

The MD is asking the Province for $27 million for all the projects. Under the program, the Provincial government will cover the entire cost for projects that cost up to $2 million to complete. For those that cost more, the MD will be required to cover 25 per cent of the amount over $2 million. It’s unknown at this point what the MD may have to contribute, depending on which projects are approved.

MD council heard details of projects proposed along the Three Point and Fish Creeks and the Sheep, Highwood and Bow Rivers on Feb. 19.

Among the projects on the list is work to bolster the Sheep River’s banks where it shifted course to the south in last year’s flood near 128 Street West.

Another project on the Highwood River, just upstream of the Women’s Coulee diversion is intended to prevent further erosion of the riverbanks near the Hoeh Dike. It’s feared future erosion could allow water to pour behind the Hoeh Dike, which would pose a significant risk to properties in the MD and High River. The project is proposed to go ahead this year, if approved.

The MD is proposing erosion protection projects along the Fish Creek near Priddis. One site north of Highway 22 would protect a number of homes and prevent damage to Priddis Valley Road. Work proposed along the creek in Priddis would protect the hamlet’s tennis courts.

MD deputy director of public works Hugh Pettigrew said there are eight to 10 projects that will be considered a priority to complete before flood season this year.

He said the MD is taking steps to prepare for construction this spring, including putting out tenders to line up contractors and acquiring materials, such as boulders to line river banks to help prevent erosion.

“We’re going as fast as we can, we’re doing some proactive stuff,” he said.

Pettigrew said the MD is asking the province to fund all the projects, even though some may cost more to do than the properties they will protect are worth.

He said the MD believes all the projects are required, but it will be up to provincial government to make the final decision on what projects will go ahead.

In one case, a proposal to do $2.5 million in work along the Three Point Creek will be submitted to the Province for approval even though it will only protect one home with an estimated value of $850,000.

The work would prevent the creek from spilling its banks just east of the Millarville Racetrack and protect the home, but councillors expressed concern the Province may not approve it or others that would cost more than property they could protect are worth.

Spilak said the MD wants the Province to consider other options for properties in these cases, such as buyouts or relocation.

“We are supportive of helping these residents, but let’s find a more cost effective way of doing it,” he said.

Coun. Delilah Miller said she empathizes with people whose homes are at risk and she said the MD needs to do what it can to help protect its residents and their homes.

Yet, she said it may not be justifiable to go forward with projects that will end up costing more to build than the homes or facilities they would protect are worth.

“If there is money and the Province can justify it, for sure it needs to be looked at,” she said. “These people, we know they’re at risk and we want to protect our residents for sure, but it’s going to be a difficult balancing act for us to justify it to the rest of the province and to the rest of the country.”

Miller said the MD needs to be careful about how it uses taxpayers’ money.

“Although there good program out there from the province and we do want their help and appreciate their help, we have to be cognizant of taxpayer’s money for this area,” she said.


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