Just outside of Kamp Kiwanis, location of diversion inlet. March 2020. Photo credit: Sajan Jabbal
Against The Current:
SR-1 Springbank Project
What is it?
Of Calgary’s flood mitigation projects undertaken or proposed since 2013, plans for a reservoir located in the Springbank area just west of Calgary is likely the most well known. Not only is it the most talked about, but it is also the one that governments have put the most time and effort into developing.
Not long after the massive flooding, the Southern Alberta Flood Recovery Task Force suggested a number of mitigation projects for Calgary and the surrounding area, including dams at McLean Creek and Springbank. The Alberta government considers the Springbank SR-1 reservoir to be the better option over McLean Creek, claiming it is more environmentally friendly, will cost less, and will take less time to build.
As of 2019 the federal government has offered $168.5 million for the project. Rachel Notley’s NDP government committed $264 million to SR-1 in October of 2015. If built, the total cost of the dam would be $432 million. However, in September of 2019 Premier Jason Kneey said he is not “married to one particular path” for flood mitigation, suggesting that if barriers to SR-1 become insurmountable, the province will have to look at other projects.
SR-1 would require a total of 3,870 acres of land. It will take a total of three years to build, but will have some functionality by the end of year two.
One of the main goals of the project is to divert potential flood water from the Elbow River. The Government of Alberta website explains that the dam “would have a storage capacity of 70.2 million cubic metres or about 28,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.” This is far greater than the 10 million cubic meter capacity of the Glenmore Reservoir.
The website also explains that once the flood levels have lowered the water will be slowly released into the Elbow river.
Cubic Meters Water Capacity
SR-1 by the Numbers
Alberta Government rendering of SR-1
Support For SR-1
While there are many organizations that oppose the project, SR-1 has received support from organizations such as the Calgary River Communities Action Group (CRCAG).
“Our interest is in protecting the city. We know that upstream mitigation is the cheapest and most effective,” says Tony Morris co-president of CRCAG.
"All the studies that have been done show that Springbank is the better alternative. It’s more cost effective, it’s more relevant to protecting the city than McLean Creek,” says Morris’ co-president, Brenda Leeds Binder.
David Smith, whose company Alberta Fire and Flood did much of the relief work for the city in 2013, says that while he believes SR-1 is the best option, he also understands why there is opposition to it.
“If you've got a lovely acreage or a lovely piece of land that's been in your family for generations, and suddenly you're told that for the good of the City of Calgary, there's the potential that you're now going to be floodplain and we're gonna put you underwater...you could see why people [oppose it],” says Smith.
According to Morris however, the benefits far outweigh the negative impacts.
“There are five properties that would be impacted at full capacity of the dam. If you look at it on those terms, compared to the thousands of buildings that were impacted [in 2013], it’s just not a comparable impact,” he says.
Leeds Binder agrees. “That is where the tests come down to. Is this something where the benefit to outway the downside to the private property owner? I think in this case there is ample evidence that this is the case.”
CRCAG believes that if the SpringBank project was stopped it would be hard to get any protection along the Elbow River.
“It’s critically important that we get something done. Our greatest fear is that at the end of the day nothing will get done. And we’ve made this point time and time again, that if for whatever reason the government were to stop SR-1 now, we are absolutely convinced that no mitigation would happen on the Elbow at all,” says Morris.
“We just don’t see that any other project would be pursued.”
It’s critically important that we get something done. Our greatest fear is that at the end of the day nothing will get done
What is SR-1and how would it protect Calgary?
By: Sajan Jabbal, Bill Atwood, and Daniel Gonzalez