New anti-flooding strategy proposed for Sundre area

Holding back Red Deer River flood waters with berms not the answer say consultants

Mountain View County has been wrestling for years on how best to prevent Red Deer River flooding near Sundre.

For a long time, building a 4.1-km long berm to hold back flood waters in the worst years was seen as the best prospect. The province even approved $3 million for a berm project in 2013.

However, after further investigation and flood modelling, consultants determined that a berm is not the best way to control a river like the Red Deer River, said Mountain View County Reeve Bruce Beattie.

Instead, consultants are recommending a variety of measures to allow more water to flow through flood-prone areas rather than trying to block it and risking creating new problems upstream, and downstream towards Sundre.

“It’s maybe surrendering in a way to Mother Nature and recognizing there are other ways to approach this,” said Beattie.

“This is the goal, to more or less channel the flood and manage the flood, as opposed to trying to prevent it,”he said.

“The theory is not to create a situation that is backing water up (and) that’s going to create flooding above or behind (a berm).”

Allowing the water to flow, but in a more directed manner, is the new approach.

County council recently endorsed a plan by Matrix Solutions Inc. to improve “flood resiliency” in an area southwest of Sundre known as McDougal Flats.

The work would cost about $3 million and Mountain View County is seeking provincial approval to use the money already allotted under the now-abandoned berm project.

The consultants, who have been working on anti-flooding projects with the Town of Sundre and Mountain View County since 2010, have proposed that Range Roads 55 and 60, which have been under water during previous floods, be modified. Larger capacity culverts will be installed and the roads rebuilt so that water does not pool in certain places making them impassable.

Additional work on the river banks in the Range Road 55 area is also recommended. More culvert will be done around the Sundre airstrip, which flooded in past years.

Beattie said the measures will be designed to accommodate a “normal flood” rather than the more rare severe floods.

A portion of the proposed berm was built after flooding in 2011.

However, the project got bogged down because of concerns that the berms might protect property in one area only to create additional problems downstream, especially at Sundre.

There were also delays because the province wanted a McDougal Flats Flood Hazard Study to be completed before the berm was settled on as the best option.

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