The Alberta government has now acquired one fifth of the land it needs for a controversial reservoir west of Calgary that would help protect the city from another massive flood.
Transportation Minister Brian Mason said Tuesday the province bought two square kilometres of land from the Robinson family, which has a cattle ranch in the Springbank area.
Mason acknowledged it was a hard decision for them.
“We know that this project is affecting some families that have real roots in that community and I really regret the fact that we need this land, but we need this land — it’s a very important project for a million-plus Calgarians,” Mason said.
“And if there was an alternative that I thought would provide that level of protection and do so in a timely way, I would have taken that. It’s unfortunate but it’s absolutely necessary in my view.”
READ MORE: How prepared is Calgary for major flooding?
The site’s total footprint is nearly 16 square kilometres. Before the Robinson land purchase, the province had secured eight per cent of the land required.
Mason declined to say how much was spent on the Robinson land purchase, or how much money has been set aside for the remaining land needed for the $432-million project.
He said he hopes the province does not have to resort to expropriation.
The Calgary Zoo, Stampede grounds, much of downtown and several neighbourhoods were overwhelmed during the 2013 southern Alberta floods. The province says a repeat of that event would cause $700 million in damage.
Ryan Robinson, who signed the deal with the government on behalf of his family, said the agreement protects and preserves heritage lands and buildings that have been in his family for generations. He said the deal also lifts a cloud of uncertainty for the Robinson children and grandchildren, as well as ranch employees who are like family.
“We understand the decision to pursue the Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir was not an easy one for the Government of Alberta. It has not been easy for us either,” he said in a statement.
“Governments must make tough decisions sometimes, and we respect the steps taken to resolve this very complicated issue.”
The Springbank reservoir, along with Calgary’s Glenmore Reservoir, will contain the same volume of water that resulted in the 2013 floods once it’s complete.
Mason said it will take two years to build once it obtains regulatory approval.
As of May of last year, the project was expected to be complete in 2022.