Calgary homeowners raise concerns about proposed flood prevention barriers along Bow River

WATCH: About 300 people got details on the city’s proposed berm in their community at a public meeting in Bowness Tuesday night. Gary Bobrovitz has more.

Plans to build one-metre-high berms along the riverbank in the Calgary community of Bowness are being unveiled to the community, but not everyone sees the proposal as a good thing.

A group of homeowners in the community, especially those living along Bow Crescent, say the barriers will ruin their access to the river.

“We absolutely want to protect ourselves and our other Bowness residents from future flooding, but we just want to know the impact on our lives,” homeowner Andy Ross said.

After the 2013 Calgary flood, the city and the province came up with ways to reduce future flooding.

LISTEN: Ward Sutherland talks to Danielle Smith about the flood prevention efforts in Bowness

READ MORE: 20 compelling images of Calgary during the 2013 flood

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Those include a new upstream dam and reservoir on the Bow River and regulating the levels and flow in the Ghost Lake reservoir.

Engineers also recommended building barriers or berms along the river bank in Calgary next to low-lying homes, something Ward 1 councillor Ward Sutherland said is a good initiative.

“It’s still necessary to do the berm and especially if the dam doesn’t get done in the near future, which is a provincial decision, we’re going to need that regardless,” Sutherland said.

The barriers in Bowness would run from the bridge at 85 Street N.W. and Bowness Park, south to Bowness Road at Shouldice Park.

One example being presented to residents at a Tuesday evening meeting is a sketch of a berm one metre high and nine metres wide, which homeowner Dale Cole criticized as a design for a one-in-20-year flood.

He said water levels that would require that kind of infrastructure don’t come near homes in his area.

“We want to express our concerns with the city saying, ‘We understand why you’re doing this but it doesn’t make sense to us. The negatives are going to outweigh the positives.'”

Watch from 2013: The bill for flood 2013 is growing. Both the city and provincial government officials say the final tab is unknown but it will be more than first estimated. 

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Ross echoed that sentiment, saying there is more risk to homes from high groundwater than there is from flooding in the neighbourhood.

“A berm will protect us from overland flooding but they’ve given us no solutions for groundwater flooding, which is a much bigger impact,” he said.

READ MORE: Photo gallery: Calgary streets before and during the flood

Sutherland said sanitary and storm systems have been upgraded to handle high water tables.

“What we’re looking for is to reduce the damage and the mitigation to everybody as a whole, and that’s the overall program,” he said.

He insisted the berm is needed and everyone has to work together to come up with the best design.

Area residents were invited to a community meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 16 at 6 p.m. to hear more about the proposal and express any concerns.

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