A group of landowners and residents opposed to the Springbank off-stream reservoir aimed to make its concerns heard Tuesday evening as members attended an open house to ask questions and submit their comments on the project.
The information session, the first of two this week, was held as part of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s public input period, which runs until mid-June.
Lee Drewry, spokesperson for Don’t Damn Springbank, said he hoped the event would provide a renewed opportunity to provide feedback and have their concerns heard.
Drewry said the group has almost 3,000 supporters, while the group Dam McLean has more than 3,500. Both want to see a dam built upstream at McLean Creek instead of the dry dam at Springbank.
“I think McLean Creek will be cheaper, it will protect more Albertans and it does no Albertan any harm, so I can’t understand why they haven’t gone after that,” he said.
Scott Wagner was one of the attendees criticizing the province’s plans as he viewed details of the project displayed around the room Tuesday.
“Low to moderate suitability for elk? That is ridiculous,” he said. “There are hundreds of elk that calve and live in this area, and they’re saying it’s low suitability? We have some of the best elk habitat in the province.”
Wagner said his wife’s family has lived in the area for more than 100 years and that they own a section of land that would be in the footprint of the dam.
“They haven’t even listed social impact on their study,” he said. “They’re destroying a community that’s been here for over 100 years.”
Sharon McPherson, a Redwood Meadows resident and a member of Dam McLean, said the group wants to see a dam built upstream to also protect Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows.
“It would be money better spent to protect more people,” she said.
Graeme McElheran, spokesperson for Alberta Transportation, said he appreciates the perspective of landowners who are concerned about the project.
“There’s no easy solutions to something like this,” he said. “Calgary and other communities downstream on the Elbow River require protection from the kinds of floods that we saw in 2013. That’s hundreds of thousands of people, more than a million people, living downstream from this location, who need to be protected. And so that really is the main reason why the Government of Alberta is moving forward with this project.”
The flood-mitigation project, which the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and provincial regulators have yet to approve, is under a one-year regulatory review.
Transportation Minister Brian Mason said last week that the Springbank site is still the best one fiscally and environmentally, while the McLean Creek option would add “at least two years” to the work.
Officials say the dry dam would work in tandem with the Glenmore Reservoir in Calgary and that the combined storage capacity would accommodate water volumes equal to the 2013 flood.
Another information session is scheduled for Thursday at 8 p.m. at Calgary First Church of the Nazarene, located at 65 Richard Way S.W.