While both Rocky View County and the Tsuut'ina Nation have backed off on opposing the proposed Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir (SR1), the Springbank Community Association (SCA) refuses to be silenced.

Association president Karin Hunter says despite an informational campaign by the government, this project is far from approved.

"Most people have the impression that this thing has been signed and ready to go and really that's not the case at all," says Hunter. "There's still significant regulatory hurdles that Alberta Transportation has to overcome."

The first of two informational meetings by Alberta Transportation is being held tonight at the Edge School in Springbank. A second will be held in Bragg Creek on Oct. 8.

She says since the project was initially proposed, there's been major changes to its outlet works meaning significant engineering and structural changes.

"Originally, they sold SR1 as a more natural solution that wouldn't hurt the river in a major way and cause massive environmental issues. Well, what we see now is a very highly engineered structure and changing of outlets works have occurred because of stability and foundational concerns."

"That has lead them to backward engineer the project as they go, because they didn't do their homework."

She questions how the regulators can continue to complete the review of the project within the next 100 days, given the extent of changes made to the project. Regulators have responded by saying the timeline won't change, leading the association to seek further advice from their legal counsel.

"You've gone from that original submission to something that is undeniable negatively impactful on your local community. The size and and structure and magnitude of impact is not remotely what they envisioned."

It's this radical change that the association intends to focus upon as it continues its fight, she says.

"We don't think the risk of this thing has at all been flushed out in the level of detail that it needs to be."

In Budget 2020, the Alberta Government reconfirmed its commitment of $196.3 million over three years for the project.

“Our government remains committed to moving the Springbank dam through the regulatory process as quickly as possible to ensure that Calgary and southern Alberta have necessary flood mitigation in place before the next major flood event occurs," stated Transportation minister Ric McIver in May.

"The residents of southern Alberta and the province’s economy cannot handle another major flood, which is why Budget 2020 includes funding to move SR1 forward."

In contrast, Hunter maintains this is the wrong decision by a ministry that appears to have tunnel vision. Hunter believes the focus remains solely on protecting Calgary while completely ignoring the needs of communities west of the city.

There's obvious disappointment in the decisions of both Tsuut'ina and RVC to step aside. She says she can't speculate as to the reason why but notes there seemed to be financial incentives from the province that perhaps helped to ease their concerns.

"As a resident of Rocky View County, it's been highly disappointing to have the county withdraw from the process because there are still much in the way of concern within the county for health, for safety and environment, for air quality, for water quality. We look to the county to protect its residents on those fronts, and yet they have seemingly been looking the other way when it comes to SR1."

To add insult to injury, she says none of those "little treats" given to other county divisions have been provided for Springbank, who will suffer the brunt of the project.

"This is an entirely negative outcome for our community. There's no redeeming quality to SR1 for Springbank or West Rocky View at all."

Alberta Transportation did, however, announce long-sought improvements are coming for the four-way stop intersection in Bragg Creek that sees traffic jams in peak travel seasons. That is not expected to be completed until 2025.

Flood mitigation isn't the only concern

It's not only about flood mitigation. It's about drought and wildfire protection, something supporters of a project at McLean Creek (perhaps better titled the Allen Bill Pond) have long argued.

She says upsetting to residents in Redwood Meadows and Bragg Creek is how they are witnessing river flows decline year after year.

Additionally, in 2018, there was a threatening wildfire in the area that some believe could have been quickly brought under control if water tankers could drawn water from a dam at McLean Creek.  

"You look at the lost opportunity to maybe store water upstream of those two communities to protect their water supply and that of Calgary also. And then they look at 2018 when fires took place in that area, well SR1 can't help with that either."

$42 million berming project underway

While the reviews of the SR1 project continues, a major $42 million berming project is now underway in Bragg Creek.

An east flood barrier structure north and south of Balsam Bridge is scheduled to be completed by December. Four more phases will take place in 2021 and final cleanup is expected to be completed by September 2022.

Hunter believes these berms will do nothing to protect Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows against overland flooding, and that's a major concern.

"So all these nice new berms they're putting in Bragg Creek, the government has admitted since day one that they won't protect against ground water flooding which people know will happen and flood basements, which contribute to financial damaged. Redwood Meadows had the same. The berms failed in 2013 and there was overland flooding, too."