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Sundre flood mapping to go ahead

Long-sought flood hazard mapping of the Red Deer River near Sundre will be undertaken by the province this year.

The study, which was lobbied for by area politicians and the Red Deer River Quality Control Committee, will involve gathering data to determine the areas most at risk from flooding.

“The idea is to establish exactly where the flood way is and where the flood fringe is,” said Mountain View County Reeve Bruce Beattie.

Local representatives went to Edmonton in March to meet with Environment Minister Diana McQueen and Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths to press their case for a study.

The assessment is expected to support the committee’s case for funding to undertake flood control measures, such as berms, along the river south of Sundre.

A similar flood hazard of what is known as the McDougall Flats southwest of Sundre was done in 1997 focusing on the existing urban area.

Fears of flooding have been heightened over the last year after the river changed course, moving several hundred metres to the north and running along a stretch of low banks.

The government was presented with 160 letters from residents concerned about potential flooding.

“We’re very happy that the province found the funding to do it,” said Beattie. “We think it’s an important first step to determine how we can then decide how development should happen in that area.”

The mapping is expected to take about a year and Beattie said they’re content to wait.

“We want to make sure the study is done to the best way,” he said. The project involves taking elevations and aerial reviews.

A similar study was done before Sundre embarked on a project to build eight spurs to redirect water flow along the banks near the town to limit erosion.

About 14,000 tonnes of rock were used to build the spurs as part of a $2.4-million project completed last June.

Further to the south and west a pair of berms were built by Mountain View County at a cost of $200,000 in late 2011.

Municipalities are hoping to line up $2.5 million in provincial funding to extend the berm to provide full protection for low-lying areas.

Beattie said the flood mapping study will not come with recommendations on how to prevent flooding. That will remain a separate process and would required permits from Alberta Environment and Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation.

“There would be a fair amount of work to be done.”

A letter has been sent to the environment minister asking for permission to undertake some work in the meantime. A response has not yet been received.

Information provided by Alberta Environment says the province has been undertaking flood hazard studies and mapping since the 1970s. A joint federal-provincial initiative was started in 1989 to standardize and cost-share flood mapping work.

The objectives of Alberta’s Flood Hazard Identification Program are to: increase public safety and awareness of flood hazards; promote appropriate development in flood-prone areas; and reduce damages and costs related to flood damage.

The study involves creating a computer hydraulic model of the river using historic high water marks. The model is then used to calculate water levels under various scenarios.

That data is transferred to a map to determine flood hazard areas.

pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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