River watchers in Sundre are awaiting an engineer’s report now underway to determine if they can move ahead with a project to protect their town from flooding.
With the imminent danger of a spring flood, town council has contracted Stantec Consulting in Red Deer to inspect the site. The engineer’s report is required so the town can apply for the permits needed to divert the river to a former channel, said retired MP Myron Thompson, spokesman for Save Our Sundre (SOS).
Permits can be fast-tracked if it is determined that the town is in danger, Thompson said on Thursday.
SOS was formed earlier this year the Sundre Chamber of Commerce to help lobby for a long-term fix for ongoing problems with the Red Deer River, which is now lapping at the banks of homes, businesses and an RV resort.
The group has favoured a diversion project that would move the river back to its pre-2005 channel.
A favourable report would allow the town to apply for immediate permission to divert the river, based on the potential for a disastrous flood such as the 2005 event that shut down the town and damaged numerous homes and business.
The river is rising slowly, but is not showing any signs so far of breaching its banks, said Thompson. Heavy flooding occurs with rapid snow melt in the mountains, heavy rainfall or both, he said. Cool nights and a lack of rainfall have so far prevented the disaster anticipated by town council and members of SOS.
Paddy Munro, also an SOS member, said the engineer is indicating that diverting the river looks like the best option.
Munro is hopeful that an application for emergency permits can be filed early next week.
Wild Rose MP Blake Richards said from Ottawa that he has discussed the situation with Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea and she is prepared to support Sundre’s proposal.
Rocky Mountain House MLA Ty Lund has also told SOS that he supports the proposal and that various provincial departments involved are prepared to approve permits as quickly as possible, said Thompson.
Lund declined further comment on Thursday.