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Alberta government predicts minimal environmental impact from Springbank Dam

Provincial report says Springbank Dry Dam is best option to help prevent flooding
WATCH: Alberta is one step closer to building the Springbank Dry Dam to help during flooding season. As Gary Bobrovitz reports, it’s still a very long process.

An environmental impact assessment (EIA) on the controversial Springbank off-stream reservoir has been submitted to federal and provincial regulators, looking at a number of issues around wetlands, wildlife habitat, and hydrology.

Mark Svenson, provincial transportation environmental coordinator, said Wednesday the impact of the Springbank Dam will not be significant.

WATCH BELOW: Fight continues over Springbank Dam

Fight continues over Springbank Dam
Fight continues over Springbank Dam

READ MORE: Springbank Dam should remain out of commission, says biologist

“I believe, for the most part, the environmental impacts of this project is minimal and nothing that can’t be mitigated with ongoing measures and best practices,” he said.

The province said in comparison to the McLean Creek option, Springbank would be $28 million cheaper, have less of an impact on the environment and would be three times less impactful on wetlands in the area. It will also provide protection three years sooner compared to McLean Creek.

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The cost of the dam is estimated at $372 million, which includes the purchase of 3,610 acres of land.

The project’s $432-million price tag also takes into account the acquisition of 6,800 acres. But, the province said Wednesday it’s confident it can sell off any surplus land not required for the dam.

“This as a result of conversations with landowners being told that would be the preference…so that no parcels of land get broken up, any parcel of land impacted in any way the government of Alberta will offer to purchase,” said Alberta Transportation communications advisor Adam Johnson.

He said a few parcels of land have already been purchased.

The review of the EIA is expected to take between 12 to 18 months and there will likely be a component of public input allowed.

TsuuT’ina Chief Lee Crowchild, in a letter to Transportation Minister Brian Mason, expressed opposition to the Springbank project.

READ MORE: Tsuut’ina chief, ‘Don’t Damn Springbank’ pen open letter asking Calgary mayor to join opposition

“Let me restate for the record that the TsuuT’ina Nation continues to deny consent to this mega project, which will be metres from our nation,” he said.

“[It is] a project that could have potentially disastrous impact on Treaty lands both upstream and downstream of the project”

Johnson said that is not what the environmental impact assessment has found.

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“We believe that this is the best project and we’ve taken a look at where that backwater would go and we don’t believe there would be any significant impact to the TsuuT’ina nation.”

However, Crowchild is calling on the federal government to conduct an independent environmental assessment and questions the objectiveness of the assessment conducted by the province.

“The firm that conducted the environmental assessment is also the firm that will be providing the engineering for the project if it goes ahead,” he said. “What is needed is a truly independent assessment.”

The province said there was consultation with several Treaty 7 nations including Tsuut’ina and other nations from central Alberta and B.C.