High River’s Mayor calls Highwood River Diversion canal plan ludicrous

WATCH ABOVE: The flood left two people dead in the High River area and 13-thousand residents were forced to evaucate the area on June 20th, 2013. Ever since, politicians have been working on plans to prevent a repeat scenario from ever playing out again. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, the town’s mayor is saying no thanks to the province’s plan to divert the Highwood river.

CALGARY – Its’ been two years since flood waters ripped through several communities, bringing widespread devastation to southern Alberta.

The flood in High River killed two people and all 13,000 residents of High River were forced to evacuate on June 20.

“It just turned everything upside down because everybody is affected and it didn’t matter if your house wasn’t flooded it just affected everything and it still does,” Donna Callison, a flood victim said.

Last year, the PC government proposed a $275 million dollar diversion canal of the Highwood River that would see water go down the Little Bow instead.

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But an independent study released earlier this spring calls that a bad use of cash and the town’s mayor agrees.

High River Mayor Craig Snowgrass is saying no thanks to the province’s plan to spend millions diverting the Highwood River and calls the plan, crazy.

“There are things that we can do better and not be spending ludicrous a lot of people want to see, you know they’re angry at the river they want to just see big earth movers go in and ramrod this thing and that’s a ridiculous way of dealing with this. How about we quit building in the river?” Mayor Snodgrass said.

George Lane Park in High River was underwater two years ago.

Now the renovated green space is a place to celebrate how far the town has come.

“Right now High River is the most well protected community in Canada from flood risk. There’s no doubt in my mind, that’s just the way it is. I think we’re the most well protected community in North America from flood risk right now,” Mayor Snodgrass said.

The province’s new municipal affairs minister says his government isn’t rushing into any flood mitigation decisions.

“We are being briefed on all the different options. We need to look at not just cost but also environmental impacts,” Deron Bilous said.

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According to the mayor, 90 percent of the planned berms around town are complete and he hopes work will soon get started on raising the height of Centre Street Bridge so it doesn’t obstruct the flow of the river during a flood.

“We are doing proper projects. Instead of spending $275 million give us 50 and will protect the town. Another berm down there and we will finish off the center street bridge is another big one. For under $100 million were totally done,” Mayor Snodgrass said.

Donna Callison lost her downtown business in the flood.

Like so many others, she’s chosen to change and adapt, rather than leave the town she’s so proud of.

“Every time you go down the street there’s a house missing it’s bulldozed down but it’s coming along just fine. It’s just taking a long time but that’s expected,” Callison said.

Mayor Snodgrass says the cost of the diversion canal would be more like $500 million dollars, around double the province’s first estimate.

The disaster recovery program got more than 10,500 applications after the June 2013 floods.

In January, then premier at the time Jim Prentice said he wanted to see the vast majority of files completely closed in June.

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