Don't Damn Springbank continues its fight against the proposed Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir (SR1) and insist it isn't just a case of landowners vs government; it's about bad public policy.
For five years, the anti-SR1 organization has been leading the opposition to the project and are still not convinced it should go ahead.
"We still believe it is not the best project for flood mitigation for the City of Calgary and it completely ignores Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows residents and those in upstream places," says Lee Drewry, who resides in Calgary but ranches in the Springbank area. "It’s bad public policy to build the Springbank Reservoir and we think there are better alternatives, Maclean Creek being one of them or maybe a series of smaller projects that don’t have the same dislocate as the Springbank project."
He says Alberta Transportation minister Brian Mason continues to downplay the extent of the opposition to the project.
"It’s not just about the landowners. Minister Mason keeps saying this is just a few landowners in Springbank, but it’s not. It’s the whole Springbank community that is stepping up now, it’s the county of Rocky View that is stepping up now, it's Tsuut'ina and other First Nations. Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows are coming together to say they deserve better protection than berms and asking why not do something further upstream?"
"At the end of the day, the landowners will continue to oppose the project but at the end of the day, it’s bigger than us. It has a bigger provincial implication and involves more than just the landowners."
This week the federal government announced it will provide $168.5 million for the project despite the fact that SR1 has not yet been approved by federal regulators and hasn't started the provincial regulatory process.
Drewry says there are still about 100 outstanding information requests from federal environmental regulators and while the provincial regulatory process hasn't begun there are already about 600 information requests.
He hopes the federal funding is tied to the overarching need for flood mitigation in the Calgary region and not particularly for the SR1 proposal.
"I would hope it’s just tied to flood mitigation because I think there's a good chance Springbank isn’t going to go, so I hope would be used for other flood mitigation projects that might protect more people."
In January, the province announced it secured 465 acres of the land they need for the project from the Robinson family. That amounts to about 12 per cent of the 3,870 acres required. Drewry believes the purchase price should be disclosed.
"They won’t tell us or taxpayers what that deal was and that’s not just right, This is public money they're spending and people should be aware of how much this thing is going to cost. We know the Robinsons very well. They're shrewd businesspeople and they aren’t going to sell it for pennies so that information should be public, but they're not disclosing it, they have the Robinsons on a gag order."
If it is going for market value as the government did state, he suspects the cost of the land acquisition is going to double if not triple than the original estimate.
He salutes the opposing position taken by Rocky View County and believes they got it right.
"There is nothing but negative consequences for the County of Rocky View in this project. It really doesn’t protect much of the county from flooding and the consequences of that 4,000 acres of wasteland their going to create in Springbank is a huge blight on the county.
"I think Rocky View hit it right on the head by saying you’ve got to go back and ask did we really pick the right project. Three years have been spent trying to figure out how to build it. Well, you can always figure out how to build but is it the right project? Is it the most economical choice and does it protect the most people? If they did that again I think they would not choose Springbank."
The Calgary River Communities Action Group strongly supports the SR1 project and called the federal funding huge news.
"Coupled with the recent announcement of significant land acquisitions for the project, it seems inconceivable it will not be supported by political parties of all stripes. If only we had that certainty," they wrote in a blog upon the announcement.
Drewry, who has worked downtown Calgary for 35 years, believes the city has more to fear from the Bow River than the Elbow.
"It’s the Bow River that has the biggest implication for flooding downtown Calgary. The Elbow River is not going to take out downtown Calgary but somehow they’ve managed to spin it as if the world is going to fall apart if the Elbow River floods and it’s just not right. The Bow River is by far the biggest threat to downtown Calgary."
Drewry's wife's family has been in the Springbank area for five generations.
Flood of Federal Dollars for Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir