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Gov't commits $13.7M to protect Bow Valley from flood damage

Thursday, March 14th 2019, 4:01 pm - Debris from steep mountain creeks caused severe damage during 2013 flood

Ottawa is committing to spend $13.7 million over 10 years — to be split between the Town of Canmore and M.D. of Bighorn — to help protect communities from debris floods along steeper alpine creeks in the Bow Valley.

Minister of Infrastructure and Communities François-Philippe Champagne announced the funding on Wednesday in Canmore.

The town and municipal district had applied for the flood mitigation funding for work around nine creeks that pose potential public safety, infrastructure and property damage risks during flooding events.

Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 3.41.02 PM Image: Dene Cooper, reeve of the M.D. of Bighorn, says the funding from Ottawa will help mitigate against the kind of disastrous flooding that happened in 2013. (CBC)

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M.D. of Bighorn Reeve Dene Cooper says the 2013 flood, which caused flash flooding on some of those creeks, devastated communities like Exshaw.

"We had full trees — torpedo trees, I call them — battering-ramming houses," he said.

Cooper says the danger and damage was amplified when debris like trees, silt and rock plugged culverts and bridges and pushed water over banks. It destroyed homes, damaged infrastructure and disrupted road and rail travel.

The M.D. has already completed much of the flood mitigation work on four creeks, including culvert improvements, reinforcing berms and new reservoirs to help collect and control that debris.

But he says the new money will help upgrade some of that work to deal with future floods, including the potential for one one even worse than 2013.

Screen Shot 2019-03-14 at 4.00.06 PM Image: The M.D. of Bighorn has already done a lot of work to repair culverts, rebuild berms and and construct new reservoirs to prepare for future flood events. (CBC)

Canmore deputy mayor Vi Sandford says the town has already completed some flood mitigation work. Officials are now considering strategies for four creeks that run through town.

"If we are going to do anything within our developable footprint, we have to know how those steep creeks are going to affect us, because they're steep and fast and they're debris-laden and there's all kinds of things that come down in a steep creek event that we have to mitigate for," she said.

Both municipalities will work jointly on Pigeon Creek at Dead Man's Flats.

"This important work will equip the community with the infrastructure it needs to better protect residents, become more resilient to future flooding events and greatly reduce the costs of recovery following extreme weather incidents," said Champagne.

Ottawa also committed $168 million on Wednesday for the Springbank off-stream reservoir in Rocky View County, a project aimed at diverting extreme flows from the Elbow River to protect Calgary from flooding.

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This article was originally published for CBC News

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