On the five year anniversary of the Calgary flood, Mayor Naheed Nenshi reflected on the event at the edge of a new park in Eau Claire, which is being designed as part of the flood mitigation plan.
“We will be completing this part of the park relatively soon, and we’ve just received funding to continue this park all the way to the Reconciliation Bridge,” said Nenshi.
That’s where he recalled standing on the banks of the Bow River at 2 a.m. in June of 2013.
“I had never seen the river run so fast, so high, and so angry before and all I could hear was the rush of the water. I gotta tell you I was a little bit scared. That was the first time in the crisis, at two in the morning, that I was scared for the future of this city.”
There was a moment when Nenshi helped evacuate a seniors’ home in Chinatown at 3 a.m.
“So imagine that. We’re evacuating a bunch of seniors, many of them are frail, most of them have a language barrier, we’re waking them up in the middle of the night, taking them down multiple flights of stairs. They don’t know when or if they’re going to be able to go home again.”
He also remembers visiting a family after the floodwaters receded.
“They had found a piece of plywood in the garage, and they scrawled a message on that piece of plywood and they nailed it to the tree in front of their house. It said ‘We lost some stuff, we gained a community.'”
The Mayor also spoke to the urgency of some projects which he sees as vital to protecting the city.
“We have to build the Springbank Dry Dam. The studies have been done, the work is in, it is clearly the best solution and it needs to get built and it needs to get built quickly,” added Nenshi.
Other things in the works include more sophisticated weather modelling and monitoring tools, as well as new gates on the Glenmore Dam which will double the capacity of water it can hold back, flood barriers downtown, stormwater upgrades in communities like Sunnyside, and a berm in Bowness.
“I spent a lot of time in Bowness, in people’s homes that don’t face the river, who nonetheless were flooded out. Preserving people’s views of the river is not a good answer for me in terms of not protecting all those other people.”
Nenshi also didn’t rule out the possibility of new land use regulations to further increase flood resiliency.