The Town of Sundre has chosen a $2.3-million plan to prevent erosion and safeguard the community from flooding from the Red Deer River.
To divert water away from the most vulnerable parts of the riverbank, engineers propose building 14 spurs out into the river to slow water flow at those points.
“They are just basically jetties of rock or native material that go straight out from the shore 20 to 30 metres,” said Ron Baker, the county’s director of operations. “They deflect the river from that part of the bank to another part of the river where the energy gets used up on something else.”
Besides preventing erosion, the spurs will also enhance the fisheries by creating pools of slow-moving water, said Baker.
Ten of the spurs will be protected with riprap, a form of reinforcement using chunks of rock wrapped in a metal mesh and firmly anchored. The remaining spurs will be placed in an area where the river has not yet reached but is expected to. By the time that happens, those spurs will be reinforced by natural vegetation growth.
“Usually, you use your unprotected spurs in places where the river isn’t going to head for a long time so they can grow into the landscape,” he said.
The last bank protection measure involves “armouring” 90 metres of bank with riprap near the town.
Baker said the option chosen from an $85,000 Stantec Consulting study was seen as offering the best protection for the cost. A $2.75-million proposal would have seen more extensive riprap along the shore. A $1.6-million option would have used fewer spurs to divert the river.
Choosing an option now allows the town to step up efforts to line up financial support from the province, which is responsible for Alberta’s rivers. Wild Rose MP Blake Richards recently pledged to lobby for federal help. The premier and local MLAs have also expressed support but no money has been committed.
On the financial front, it’s a case of “the sooner the better,” said Baker. “It would be really nice to see this protection in place before next spring.”
Local officials have been lobbying the province for years for money to protect the community from flooding. A local group called Save Our Sundre was formed in 2009 to put additional pressure on the Alberta government. The group disbanded in June, frustrated at the lack of progress.
Residents complain that the Red Deer River has crept closer to homes and businesses every spring since 2005, when heavy flooding swamped parts of the town and dramatically changed the river’s course.