The findings of a preliminary review on the potential impact should the Glenbow East reservoir be pursued by the province has left town council eager to move quickly to voice its concerns.

In an abbreviated version of the high-level review, Kris Nelson, Urban Systems community consultant, told council a significant amount of existing and future infrastructure in Cochrane would potentially be at risk at times of high water should the Glenbow East reservoir to developed.

While not in a position to provide a dollar value of the potential damage, he implied it could be in the millions.

Mayor Jeff Genung says now is the time to act and to not wait until a more indepth technical analysis is completed.

"We know now that there's going to be impacts, we know roughly what they are, and they're in a large magnitude. A letter outlining what our concerns are and outlining that there are significant costs, I think is the important piece, not to the decimal point of what they might be."

The Bow River Reservoir Options (BRRO) project is in the feasibility phase that will determine which option, if any, the government wants to pursue. It's expected to be completed by the end of the year, but Genung says he was told by local MLA Peter Guthrie that a decision may be made as early as this fall.

The other option being considered is expanding the Ghost reservoir, west of Cochrane. As anticipated, a third option in the Stoney Nakoda Nation was dropped.

Councillor Patrick Wilson says he was disappointed to see the Glenbow East option still on the table because of the number of problems identified with it when it was first introduced in 2018.

"I'm concerned that the cost to our municipality is the main thing that hasn't been evaluated and considered," said Wilson. "I think this disrupts a lot of infrastructure, a lot of services and a lot of things that will fall down to the Town of Cochrane, and that's not acceptable."

Council is expected to see a draft of the letter at its June 24 meeting.

The presentation follows months of lobbying and information sessions led by Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation (GRPF) that forewarned of the impact upon both the Bow River parks, Cochrane and Rocky View County.

GeorgGPRF chair Georg Paffrath says the discussions were encouraging.

GPRF chair Georg Paffrath says he's encouraged that the town is honing in on the significant impact it could have upon Cochrane. Foundation representatives met with Mayor Genung to discuss the issue several weeks ago. 

"I think that the big thing is that they should be sending the message, why is this option?" says Paffrath. "It's got so many cons against it compared to the other option, why is it even being considered?"

"I think what's necessary now, as Councillor Tara McFadden mentioned, is how do we get the rest of Cochrane to realize just how bad this impact is?"

Paffrath was pleased by the number of people who attended the presentation and said many of them had participated in their other sessions. He says town councillors had been invited to those past sessions, but none attended.

Since the foundation launched the Save Bow River Park campaign, he says emails and postcards sent to Rebecca Schulz, minister of Environment and Protected Areas, in opposition to Glenbow East have quadrupled.

Rebecca SchulzEnvironment and Protected Areas minister Rebecca Schulz was given a tour of the park by CEO Jeromy Farkas, board member Tim Harvie and foundation chair Georg Paffrath recently. (Photo/Rebecca Schulz Facebook Page)

Last week, Minister Schulz met with foundation officials in the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park for about an hour and a half.

"We took her all the way to the Haskayne Park, and she was really appreciative to be able to see in the flesh what that impact would be," says Paffrath. "We told her where she was standing would be underwater, and the railway would be way up there on the hillside. I think we had an impact on her."

GRPF executive director Jeromy Farkas says town council was saying all the right things and looks forward to the letter being prepared before the July 1 so that it will be taken into consideration.

Farkas says they are currently attempting to arrange meetings with Rocky View County officials to discuss the issue.

CrowdThe council chambers overflowed with concerned residents.

What's the potential impact during times of high water?

Flood and Infrastructure Impact

  • Stormwater Systems: The stormwater facility in the Riviera community could experience backwater effects, reducing its capacity and potentially causing flooding in homes.
  • Roads: Parts of Griffin Road, including the Jack Tennant Memorial Bridge, would be flooded, disrupting transportation.
  • Water and Wastewater Facilities: Key facilities and pipelines could be damaged during floods, including the sanitary syphon from Gleneagles, watermains along Griffin Road, and the wastewater transfer station.

Impact on Recreation and Community Facilities

  • Recreational Areas: Flooding could affect the Spray Lakes Centre and pathways along the Bow River. About 5.5km of pathways would be underwater.
  • Ice Damming: Increased winter water levels could worsen ice damming, affecting pathways, parks, and bridge utilities.
  • Other Areas: Several areas, including the Griffin Historic Barn and Bow Rivers Edge Campground, would be affected by flooding.

Impact on Future Development

  • Greystone: The Greystone Neighbourhood Plan could face reduced stormwater capacity, risking flooding in new developments.
  • Robinson Lands: Future developments could be significantly flooded, requiring expensive floodproofing.
  • Southbow Landing: This area would lose developable land, and planned stormwater facilities would need relocation, increasing costs and affecting recreational areas.