Opinions clash on Calgary flood mitigation berms

Residents walk through flood waters in Calgary on June 24, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The City of Calgary’s utilities and corporate services committee received its annual flood resiliency update on Wednesday. The committee heard details of the work that’s taking place to protect and mitigate the impacts of a 2013 flood.

An expert panel was put together six years ago and came out with 27 recommendations, of which 15 have been completed with the other 12 under consideration or in progress.

The presentation was overshadowed by a difference in opinion of flood barriers from two different communities in the city. Residents in Sunnyside and a small street in Bowness gave passionate presentations to the committee on the issue of flood berms.

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“Concerns with the aesthetics of a higher barrier are minimal. There will be limited incremental environmental issues with an incrementally higher barrier,” Charlie Lund, a member of the Hillhurst Sunnyside Community Association, told committee Wednesday. “The barrier is entirely on city-owned property. In short, there are virtually no negative considerations for Sunnyside residents to offset the benefits of better flood protection.

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“Sunnyside needs a higher flood barrier and we need it now.”

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Meanwhile, residents from Bow Crescent told the committee they don’t want anything to do with a flood berm.

They cite the loss of wildlife habitat, the loss of enjoyment of the river from their backyards and questioning whether a proposed berm in their area of Bowness will be necessary should the province go ahead with flood mitigation on the Bow River upstream of the city.

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Bowness resident David Chalick says the city needs to better consult with residents.

“We request the city change their consultation policy to explicitly require consulting of property owners for projects to be built on private lands, with clear questions on if the project should go forward and results separated by those not actually affected,” Chalick said.

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Ward 1 councillor Ward Sutherland, chair of the city hall committee, said there are no detailed drawings of what a berm would look like and there will be one-on-one consultation with the 100 or so impacted homeowners, urging patience.

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“Some of this data is not going to come until a year from now so there will not be answers on certain stuff and other stuff there will be,” Sutherland said.

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