There is no question that the flood of 2013 devastated many areas of Calgary. Homes were lost or damaged, businesses were shut down weeks and in some cases months and recreational spaces/parkland was significantly affected. Many of the most affected communities are in Ward 11. Neighborhoods like Mission, Rideau Park, Beltline, Victoria Park, Roxboro, Erlton, Elboya and Elbow Park were damaged by flood waters.
The City, and these communities rallied after the floods – neighbours helped neighbours clean up and start the process of repairing and rebuilding their beloved communities. The overall economic impact of the flood was at least $6 billion. Beyond the huge economic impact, the floods have taken a toll on the happiness and wellbeing of many residents and business owners. Most have re-built and resumed their regular lives. However there is genuine fear and concern over how prepared we are for future flood events.
Several flood prevention strategies were discussed following the flood, to ensure that Calgary is better protected. One such initiative is the Springbank Dry Dam Project. The Springbank Dry Dam is a dry reservoir that will store water temporarily during a flood. During a flood, a diversion channel would carry water from the Elbow River to the off-stream reservoir, which would have a storage capacity of about 28,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. It will work in tandem with the Glenmore Reservoir in Calgary. These two reservoirs would accommodate water volumes equal to the 2013 flood, helping to protect communities downstream. It is important to note that this project is managed by the Provincial government, and that we may need to work with the province to implement other flood mitigation work in addition to the dry dam.
As your councillor, I will advocate for the timely completion of this project. I have already met with MLA Greg Clark to discuss this project and agree that the Province needs to move forward with it to ensure upstream mitigation efforts are implemented as soon as possible. I will make sure as a City we continue to put pressure on the Province to have this dry dam operational within the next 5 years, if not sooner.
The floods also left several parcels of land vacant, as homeowners opted to not rebuild and the province purchased the properties. At least 17 houses in the Calgary neighbourhoods of Elbow Park, Rideau and Roxboro were torn down. Homeowners in the areas of the empty properties have expressed concerns about the lots left vacant. Some believe the lots are not being well maintained and are being used inappropriately by the public for river access. There are also concerns that vacant land will lead to an increase in crime and vagrancy issues.
We need to work with the province to determine what the plan is for these lots. If they are to remain vacant for floodway purposes, then we need to involve Calgary Parks to ensure the land is maintained and transformed into a safe public space. If the properties are able to be resold to private interests for redevelopment, as a City we need to make sure our planning processes aren’t prohibitive to rebuilding. As your councillor, I would ensure that we do not lose sight of this issue and that we return these neighbourhoods to the complete state they were prior to the floods.
Residents and businesses in our river communities haven’t forgotten the devastating effects of the 2013 floods on their lives. As a city, we need to make sure that these neighbourhoods are not forgotten, and that we are continuing to be pro-active in protecting Calgary from future weather events.