The NDP Government may be moving ahead with an environmental assessment of a controversial flood mitigation project, but opponents aren’t taking it lightly.
The assessment for the Springbank Dam proposal is now underway, negotiated between stakeholders and the government.
If built, Elbow River water would flow into a new reservoir on top of Val Vista Ranch in the case of a massive flood, like the one in 2013.
In a statement, the NDP said:
“The EIA for the Springbank Off-stream Reservoir is required for various environmental regulatory processes, including federal components.
The EIA examines a variety of issues, including but not limited to: air quality, noise, vegetation and wetlands, historical resources, traditional knowledge and traditional land use.
Designed as a dry dam unless flood conditions are present, the Springbank Off-stream Reservoir will work in tandem with the Glenmore Reservoir in Calgary. Together, the combined storage capacity would accommodate water volumes equal to the 2013 flood.”
But Rocky View County officials, residents and landowners have heavily opposed the idea, claiming it hasn’t been thoroughly thought out, sacrifices one group of Albertans for another and has been fast-tracked when there’s better options available.
On Wednesday afternoon, landowner Lee Drewry gave a presentation to residents informing them of the assessment and he later told reporters what he wants to see come out of it.
“The first thing I’d like to see is a fair assessment of the environmental impact of this project,” he said. “There are wildlife concerns, there are social concerns, there are a bunch of things that will be discovered when they do this environmental assessment, so let’s do it and let’s see what it says, but let’s ensure that we do it fairly and certainly. That’s one of the things that we’ll be doing is making sure that this isn’t done in a way that is rigged to begin with.”
The plan was heavily touted during former premier Jim Prentice’s short time in office, claiming it was economically feasible and that it could be done quickly.
The NDP originally opposed the idea, but later changed course claiming it didn’t have all the information available.
Drewry and his supporters have continually claimed the option of a McLean Creek dam is a much better alternative, a project already on Crown land, as opposed to the Springbank Dam which would affect people’s private land.
“Calgary does need to be protected, we just believe that it’s the wrong project that they’re doing after,” he said. “The McLean Creek project will do the same job with less impact on other Albertans and I think that’s critical. This is transferring risk from one community to another when it’s not required.”
A reporter asked Drewry about a statement Transportation Minister Brian Mason reportedly made claiming the assessment was just another step in approving the project.
“I don’t know why he’d make that assumption when you haven’t done the work,” he said.
Rocky View County Councillor Eric Lowther was at the meeting and told those in attendance the reeve had sent a letter to the premier and to the Provincial Council of Counties that they didn’t want any construction to occur – with the exception of the assessment – until a complete review of all possible projects had been done and made public.
“I think we’re part of the mix,” he said. “Whether or not we’ll be heard too, I think it’s a case of you’ve got to have enough voices at the table to be heard.”