Bragg Creek versus Calgary: Residents fight for flood protection

CALGARY – The provincial government hosted an open house meeting Tuesday night in Bragg Creek to talk about an off-stream reservoir for the Elbow River as a way to mitigate flood risk following the devastation that occurred in 2013. The Springbank off-stream reservoir is set to be built about 15 km west of Calgary near Springbank Road, north of the Elbow River and east of Highway 22.

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice favours that approach, rather than a dry dam upstream from Bragg Creek in Kananaskis—an option preferred by flood victims from the surrounding area.

READ MORE: 10 memorable images of Bragg Creek in the 2013 flood

Rancher Rob Mathews lives in the small community, and lost some of his fencing in the 2013 flooding. A proposed dry dam on Crown land at Allen Bill Pond would’ve been built almost in Mathews’ front yard—and some say it would save Bragg Creek should another flood occur—along with protecting Redwood Meadows, Tsuu T’ina and Calgary. But the province rejected that plan.

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“It’s so obvious. And I think the government is just being so stubborn for not looking past their noses,” said Mathews, who says the decision to build an off-stream reservoir in Springbank instead “short-sighted.”

That reservoir wouldn’t protect Bragg Creek or Redwood Meadows, and some heritage farm owners with land where berms and diversion channels are built would face expropriation. But the Prentice government says building in Springbrank is less complicated, faster and cheaper.

Homeowners in Calgary river communities are backing the Springbank reservoir because they want to see upstream mitigation as soon as possible.

“The anxiety is really substantial, until you get past flood season and go phew – past another year,” said Calgary River Communities Action Group board member Tony Morris.

But Bragg Creekers want the province to reverse the decision, and they’re prepared to fight for it. The government offered their community better berms and dykes to protect against flooding.

“If that’s the case, let’s save us all the money and give Calgary berms and dykes too,” said Marina Cooke, who owns a business and lives in Bragg Creek. “Forget the dams and let’s save everybody millions of dollars. If it’s good enough, it’s good enough for them, too.”

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READ MORE: One photojournalist’s amazing rescue from Bragg Creek

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