Alberta NDP moves ahead with controversial Springbank reservoir process
The environmental assessment is underway for Calgary’s Springbank off-stream reservoir, the Alberta government announced Wednesday. Though Premier Rachel Notley renewed her commitment to proceed with the project in February, she previously came under fire for reneging on her election promise to scrap it.
The flood mitigation project will divert the Elbow River into the new storage reservoir in Springbank, located on top of Val Vista Ranch. It’s meant as part of an overall provincial flood mitigation strategy, following $6 billion in damage caused by widespread flooding in southern Alberta in June 2013.
A statement from the NDP government said the required Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is needed for various environmental regulatory processes, including federal components. It will look at issues such as air quality, noise, vegetation and wetlands, historical resources, traditional knowledge and traditional land use.
WATCH: A conceptual animation of the Springbank project created by the Alberta government
“Designed as a dry dam unless flood conditions are present, the Springbank off-stream reservoir will work in tandem with the Glenmore reservoir in Calgary,” the NDP said in a statement. “Together, the combined storage capacity would accommodate water volumes equal to the 2013 flood."
The NDP said it has conducted “extensive stakeholder consultation” for the reservoir and will “continue to engage with stakeholders and provide public updates as milestones are achieved.”
But a group of about 18 landowners called Don’t Damn Springbank claimed government officials had refused meeting requests rather than engaging with residents. The group renewed its opposition to the project Wednesday, and suggested a dam along McLean Creek was a better option.
“[The Springbank dam] SR1 is bad public policy,” said affected owner Lee Drewry in a statement. “The cost of SR1 has been vastly understated, it won’t be faster than McLean Creek, and it does not provide protection for upstream communities. …
“Transferring risk from one community to another is not flood mitigation. We are confident that with enough time, and scrutiny, Albertans, especially rural Albertans, will back our fight to stop this white elephant in its tracks.”
The group said there haven’t yet been any negotiations on land transfer between Springbank residents and the government, but only negotiations to allow the environmental assessment, which they feel will show the project is “bad public policy.”
“We are confident that the assessments will prove that the land in question is a hotspot for wildlife, and has most of the same environmental and social issues that were deemed to make McLean Creek unfavorable.”
Rockyview County Council Liz Breakey previously said Albertans were misled about how long environmental work and expropriation would take, along with the true cost of relocating roads. She said Rockyview County didn’t accept the province’s numbers, so it paid for its own study.
“The county has redone the cost-benefit analysis – for an independent view – and certainly the answer that came back is that it’s a multiple of what has been suggested,” Breakey said in June 2015, pegging the costs at $1 billion instead of the suggested $250 million.
Watch below: Global’s ongoing coverage of the Springbank off-stream reservoir
During the election, the NDP supported construction of a different wet reservoir upstream from Bragg Creek on Crown Land in Kananaskis. Supporters suggested it could pay for itself through tourism opportunities, and wouldn’t affect landowners or livelihoods.
The government said in October its decision to build the Springbank reservoir instead of a dam along McLean Creek was made after the province commissioned an independent review by Dutch research foundation Deltares.
With files from Global’s Mia Sosiak and Melissa Ramsay
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