Federal government moves forward with reservoir west of Calgary

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CALGARY – The federal government has provided the final piece of the puzzle to allow a controversial reservoir that could protect Calgary from future flooding to move forward.

Alberta Transportation proposed the $ 432 million off-stream reservoir near the rural community of Springbank, located west and upstream of Calgary.

The project, which will divert water from the Elbow River, was proposed after severe flooding in Calgary in 2013. It killed five people and caused more than $ 5 billion in damage in southern Alberta.

“There is an old saying about closing the barn door once the horse has bolted. In 2013, Calgary experienced the most destructive flooding in the history of this province, ”said Federal Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson at a location near the Elbow River that was underwater eight years ago. years.

“Well that horse ran away, but we can’t trust luck and fate that this won’t happen again.” The hits keep coming.

Wilkinson said a contribution agreement has been finalized to provide the reservoir project with up to $ 168.5 million from the Federal Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund.

“This critical project will directly protect 80,000 Calgarians by diverting flood water from the Elbow River during extreme floods to a temporary reservoir in nearby farmland and wetlands where it will be stored.”

Wilkinson said global warming has resulted in wildfires, floods and droughts and that is not going to improve anytime soon.

“Climate scientists will indeed tell you that we cannot point to a specific extreme weather event and point to climate change as the direct cause,” he said. “These scientists will also tell you that we are and will see more and more of these extreme weather events due to global warming.”

Alberta Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney said she expects construction of the reservoir to begin next spring, but there are still provincial hurdles to overcome.

“We still have work to do with the affected landowners and my officials continue to work with these people to purchase the land needed for this project,” she said.

“42-44% of the land acquisition is complete and so it is clear that we have work to do. “

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he couldn’t look at the Elbow River, which he considered part of the city’s bloodstream, not remembering that it “hurt us so much”.

“I will never forget those five lives … and I will never forget the determination we have shown over the past eight years to ensure that this never happens again.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 20, 2021.

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