Many Calgarians worry that a flooding event similar to that of 2013 will occur once again causing billions of dollars in damages and putting lives at risk. The City of Calgary is putting the safety of the community and economy as a top priority by ensuring that projects for developing the city’s flood resilience are progressing.
The flood in 2013 was the biggest flood in Calgary since 1932, leaving about $6 billion worth of damages and financial losses. Furthermore, this flood cost 5 lives and about 80,000 people were evacuated from their homes. The City of Calgary is working towards creating infrastructural improvements in order to prevent this level of devastation from hitting the city once again.
After almost 5 years of work and $82 million later, the Glenmore Reservoir upgrades have been completed.
The following infrastructure improvements were made to the Glenmore Reservoir:
- Rehabilitating the dam
- Addition of intermediate piers
- Weir crest extension
- Addition of new, higher steel gates with independent hoists in replacement of the wooden stop log system
- Replacing bridge deck to increase space for pathway users
According to the City of Calgary, the infrastructure improvements will provide benefits such as increasing water drinking supply for the residents of Calgary and future generations, strengthening flood resilience during low river flows in the winter and high river flows in the spring, and providing recreational options for pathway users such as walking and biking lanes.
How are these improvements going to ensure flood resilience for residents near the Elbow River?
The new gates are made of a higher and stronger steel in order to withstand loading from ice during the winter months. The independent hoists on the gates then makes it possible to control the higher water levels during the spring. These steel gates in replacement of the previous wooden stop log system increases the storage by approximately 10 billion litres.
These upgrades such as increasing the water storage and building higher, strong walls are a step towards preventing flooding from occurring. The city official has claimed that these new gates will provide protection against a 1-in-30 year flood event.
In addition to the Glenmore Reservoir, the City of Calgary is working on the Springbank Reservoir project to protect Calgary from another major flood. While this project has yet to break ground, the Springbank Reservoir is a new off-stream diversion project being built to protect Calgary from a flood similar to the one in 2013.
There is roughly a 1% chance every year of a major flood occurring in Calgary, for this reason, the city needs to be prepared to fight a 1-in-100 year flood event that has a possibility of occurring. The Springbank Reservoir is what will truly provide the city with the protection it needs.
This project however, is progressing slowly in order to make sure each step is monitored by city officials and engineers. The province officials have now acquired over 25% of the land needed for the Springbank Reservoir, allowing the capacity of water to be around 78 million cubic metres. This Springbank Off-stream Reservoir remains under the provincial and federal governments’ regulatory review and there is no clear date of when the project will be complete.
The Springbank Off-stream Reservoir is the best flood mitigation option for the Elbow River. It is expected to reduce flooding by managing intensive flow rates and high water volumes. This is a large, dry reservoir that will temporarily store water during a flood. If the Elbow River floods, the water will be diverted into the dry Springbank Reservoir to prevent it from harming communities.
A major concern for this project is the environmental aspect of how it may affect ecosystems and wildlife. The Environmental Impact Assessment pertaining to the Springbank Reservoir has been approved by the provincial government. It has been thoroughly studied and engineered to ensure that there are no adverse effects on the ecosystems or wildlife of the Elbow River.
The Springbank Off-stream Reservoir will work in tandem with the Glenmore dam to handle the volume of water experienced in the 2013 flood. Together, these projects will work to reduce any future damages that could be caused by flooding.
These projects become especially important in protecting the city from the impacts of climate change. As climate changes begin to pose a greater threat, it is more likely that Calgary will see extreme weather events such as flooding in the future years. For this reason, dams and reservoirs are the city’s top priorities in ensuring the city is ready for future flooding, and the projects are in place to prevent large-scale damages.
Visit the city’s website to learn about Calgary’s Flood Zones.