July 24, 2018 6:02 pm
Updated: July 24, 2018 6:58 pm

‘High River will never flood again’: Construction underway on new floodgate in Alberta town

WATCH: A major project is underway in High River, designed to prevent the kind of destruction the town saw during the 2013 floods. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, a floodgate is being installed to keep water in the Highwood River and away from homes.

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The Centre Street bridge in the southern Alberta town of High River is closed from July 24 to July 26 as crews prepare to install a new floodgate.

The design uses an automated sliding gate built into berms on both sides of the road in front of the bridge. Currently, the road by the Centre Street bridge is the town’s weak link in the berm system that was constructed since the 2013 floods.

Read more on the floodgate here

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“When the floodgate is in place, it locks on both sides and it seals on both sides–and against the road–so there is no way for water to get through,” said Reiley McKerracher, the town’s director of engineering, planning and operations. “The water at that point would just stay in the river and stop it from going on the road and into town.”

READ MORE: Still at risk or recovered? How High River and Bragg Creek are coping 5 years after the flood

When it’s not in use, the floodgate will slide right back into the dike so it is not visible.

“It will be contained within the dike and there will be a little door there and a little control station and when we need it, it slides out across the road and locks down,” McKerracher said.

Not only is the gate designed to withstand a recurrence of the 2013 flood, the design also adds an extra metre to that level for even more protection.

READ MORE: 15 compelling images of High River in the 2013 flood

But a former town mayor says the $3.5-million-dollar price tag is too steep and suggests a similar gate could have been installed for a fraction of the cost.

“The floodgate is going to be OK but it’s overkill, I think. The money could be spent better elsewhere,” Frank VanDonzel said.

The town chose the more expensive option because officials decided they needed a floodgate that could be deployed within an hour’s notice–and this one fit the bill.

VanDonzel says when all the construction is completed, including the berm at the south end of town, High River will be well-protected from any future floods.

“If we don’t spend it here, the government will spend it elsewhere, so I’m glad we have it.

“If High River floods, I think we have to build another Noah’s Ark,” VanDonzel laughed.

“I think the safest place in Canada–or in the world–is in High River when it comes to the flooding, because nothing will happen over here.”

READ MORE: Nature’s power and the long-lasting impacts on southern Alberta rivers

It’s been five years since Phil and Arlene Coran’s basement was under water when High River was devastated by the floods. Like many others who lived through that nightmare, they went down to the Centre Street bridge to watch the construction of the new floodgate–and are hoping the device will do its job.

“I think it’s a good thing for High River,” Phil said. “It’s going to protect the town a lot and once we get it all completed, I think we will be a safe town.”

The actual gate is being built off-site. Construction is expected to be wrapped up by the end of October 2018.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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