Spring melt brings attention to flood risk
YYC Matters highlights the importance of continued support to protect Calgary.
One of those issues is protecting Calgarians from exposure to river flooding damage and risks. While the municipal, provincial and federal governments have worked together on investments to reduce flood risk by one-third since 2013, significant risk still remains. This is top-of-mind as spring storms and snowmelt begin.
Upstream reservoirs are critical to ensuring Calgary is protected from river flood damage. The Province has recognized the importance of this work, and its uninterrupted support is essential to The City of Calgary’s Flood Resilience Plan.
“River flooding larger than what we experienced in 2013 is not unprecedented,” said Frank Frigo, Leader of Watershed Analysis. “Calgary’s river communities and downtown remain exposed to the risk of flooding. Our Flood Mitigation Measures Assessment has determined the best way to protect against river flooding damage is with multiple lines of defense, including upstream reservoirs.
“Our strategy aims to provide timely, cost effective, and practical flood risk management while respecting community values and staying adaptable to future uncertainties,” added Frigo. “The plan is designed so that every dollar spent on flood investments since the 2013 flood will return approximately $10 in avoided flood damage once projects are completed.”
Bow River flood risk reduction
In Calgary, community-level barriers in high-risk locations will work together with provincial upstream efforts on the Bow River to reduce the risks from future flooding and maximize flood protection for the city. A new upstream Bow River reservoir is vital to Calgary’s flood resilience, and will also serve to address water supply and drought risks in response to climate change, working as a holistic water management strategy. This work is contingent on sustained funding support through the Province’s Alberta Community Resilience Program. Extending the five-year agreement between the Province and TransAlta, who manages the Ghost Reservoir, is also key to help protect communities in Calgary against the impacts of flood and drought.
Elbow River flood risk reduction
On the Elbow River, the Provincial Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir has been identified as the best flood mitigation option to protect communities along the Elbow River and our downtown. With the March 13, 2019 announcement of a federal commitment of $168.5 million towards the Springbank Reservoir, the project hinges on a renewed commitment from the Province.
“The Springbank Reservoir has the best benefit-to-cost ratio and is the most responsible environmental option of a range of alternatives thoroughly studied,” said Carolyn Bowen, Manager, Watershed Planning. “It will be able to capture floodwaters closest to Calgary and is off-stream so that it won’t impact habitat and river flows under normal conditions.”