Since 2013 the creation of the Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir, known as SR1, has been a contentious project that has received incredible pushback from the communities it will affect.
The traumatic stress of the 2013 flood lingers in the Bragg Creek, Redwood Meadows and Springbank communities— One can hear the hushed whispers of concern when the area experiences more rain than expected, a larger snowpack or the Elbow River rises higher then expected.
It has been seven years of worry and concern each spring, leaving residents hoping the communities will survive another year without experiencing another devasting flood.
That concern makes it imperative to find a way to keep the Bragg Creek, Redwood Meadows and Springbank communities safe from flooding.
However, residents have been unequivocally clear— SR1 is not the answer.
The project has hit many roadblocks, but these hurdles are slowly disappearing. In April, the Tsuut’ina First Nation dropped their opposition to the reservoir and in May, Rocky View County followed suit.
The only steps left are to receive approval from provincial and federal regulators and the project, estimated to cost $431 million, will be able to move forward.
However, one cannot help but question the government's dogged determination to push the project forward when it has been met with a rallying cry from the community— “Don’t Dam Springbank.”
One needs only talk to residents from the affected communities to learn the vitriol many feel toward the project.
For seven years they have been exposed to flooding, for seven years they have called for an alternative option to SR1 and for seven years their cries have been ignored by three separate provincial governments.
It can be challenging to stop the wheels of bureaucracy once they are set in motion— But, it is an ethical necessity for our provincial government to stop and listen to the concerns of residents.
Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver cautioned changing plans now could add years to the creation of SR1.
“Giving up on this SR1 now would continue to expose the region to flooding for at least eight or nine or ten years,” McIver said. “It’s been seven years without flood mitigation. We cannot afford to go another seven years.”
While this sentiment is true, why were calls to pursue a project in McLean Creek met by deaf ears? The provincial government has had seven years to create an alternative flood mitigation project and has instead chosen an embroiled fight to build a dam where it is not wanted.
At the SR1 information session on Thursday (Oct. 8) Highland Stock Farm owner Rob Matthews said he thinks the provincial government is failing to listen to residents and their concerns.
“All of us that live in this community are trying to understand how you can say to us that it’s going to be cheaper to do SR1 then it is up at McLean Creek and Allen Bill Pond,” Matthews said. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
Matthews added McLean Creek is a better option for a reservoir because there would be no need to remove people from land— In some cases, this involves farmland that has been in families for generations dating back to Alberta's first homesteaders.
Matthews' anger at the meeting was palpable, and his impassioned words were met with cheers and support from the audience.
“You haven’t talked to half of the landowners in that area,” Matthews exclaimed. “These are my friends that I grew up with that their land is being sacrificed— They have not been asked if they would like to sell their lands.”
Springbank Community Association president Karin Hunter put it best.
“You seem to presume that there’s no choice, you have to continue with SR1— It’s too late, it’s been too long,” Hunter said. “There’s always a choice to make the right decision … We will continue to fight this project, we will see you at the regulatory hearings and we will continue to raise the issues and represent our community.”