Question: What is your opinion on the proposed flood mitigation options for the Elbow River:
- Glenmore Reservoir Diversion Tunnel;
- The McLean Creek dry dam;
- The Springbank off-stream diversion and storage site and do you favour this project as a dry dam only or as a permanent reservoir?
Answer: Alberta Liberals are committed to working with local officials and engineering professionals to implement layers of flood mitigation such as dams, berms, dikes and spillways that will complement each other and provide the greatest level of protection possible. Calgarians and other Albertans deserve no less.
While hindsight is 20-20, we know that the PCs were well aware of the potential for a major flood event, were given a detailed report containing no less than eighteen flood mitigation recommendations seven years earlier, kept that report under wraps until fairly recently, and failed to act on the report’s recommendations. As a result, Alberta did not have adequate flood mitigation measures in place when the 2013 flood hit, and the responsibility for that lies solely with the PCs.
The foundation for effective flood mitigation measures is flood hazard maps that are accurate and current. Unfortunately, the PCs have not kept Alberta’s maps up to date, particularly in regards to urban flood risk areas, which has called into question their entire strategy of trying to buy out homeowners living in the floodway and placing disaster compensation caveats on those residing in the flood fringe. Alberta Liberals will ensure that flood hazard maps are up to date so that mitigation measures and other flood protection initiatives are based on reliable and accurate information.
While the hope is that flood mitigation measures will be enough to prevent a repeat of the 2013 flood from ever happening again, there is unfortunately no guarantee. With this in mind, Alberta Liberals have been pushing for the province to facilitate the introduction of homeowner flood insurance, either alone or in conjunction with other jurisdictions or the insurance industry. We believe that many Albertans residing in or near flood prone areas would welcome the opportunity to better protect themselves if such an option was available.
Alberta Liberals also believe that the province must budget much more realistically for disaster recovery, especially given that the federal government is reducing its support in this area. Most Albertans would be shocked to learn that the province currently budgets a mere $200,000 annually for disaster recovery, relying instead on in-year unbudgeted supplementary appropriations that are sometimes in the hundreds of millions. We know that the insurance industry considers Alberta the disaster capital of Canada, and that more disasters, severe weather and other events happen here than in other jurisdictions. We need to be budgeting in such a way that adequately accounts for this reality.
In regards to the specific flood mitigation projects you highlight, Alberta Liberals support Calgary City Council’s decision to back the proposed flood diversion tunnel linking the Glenmore Reservoir with the Bow River. We see the diversion tunnel as one of the key elements in the province’s flood mitigation arsenal, and demonstrates our respect for municipal decision-making.
Of the other two projects and based on the somewhat sanitized information that is currently available, the PCs are telling Albertans that the Springbank dry reservoir is the better option. Having said that, we still have serious questions about the viability and cost-effectiveness of the project. Alberta Liberals are concerned that the PCs hastily announced that the project was proceeding just days ahead of the fall 2014 by-elections – a blatant attempt to convince flood victims in Calgary-Elbow that the PCs were finally taking action. The announcement actually preceded the PCs’ receipt of an important engineering report that was to aid the government in making a decision on the two options. What we do know is that the City of Calgary was blindsided by the Springbank dry reservoir announcement, that engineers publicly rebuked the PCs for deciding on such an important matter before receiving and considering all the facts, and that Mr. Prentice has yet to release that report to back his claims that the project is the best and most cost-effective option.
The Springbank dry reservoir may, in fact, be the best option. However, Alberta Liberals believe that Mr. Prentice has an obligation to prove that by being open and transparent with the engineering and costing details.
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