Band-aid solutions just don’t cut it anymore, say Sundre citizens who worry every year about whether high water will wash their homes and businesses into the Red Deer River.
A new group, Save Our Sundre, is sending an SOS to government agencies at the local, provincial and federal levels to find a permanent solution in time to prevent damage during the high-water season this year.
SOS members believe that dredging the Red Deer River, forcing it back into a previous channel, would protect the town from the devastating floods such as the one experienced during heavy rains in June of 2005.
Members of the group, led by former Wildrose MP Myron Thompson — himself a Sundre resident and former mayor — met with town council on Monday and hope to meet next week with Mountain View County council.
SOS member Tom Minnear, owner of the Sobeys store, said his store and his house have both been threatened by high water as recently as 2008.
He used bags of cat litter and dog food to hold the water back until he could get a semi-load of sandbags from the town.
“Any day, any time now that it rains more than three days, we all get nervous out here,” said Mennear.
Classified as a one-in-200-year flood, the 2005 flood changed the course of the Red Deer River, moving it to an entirely different channel, says Sundre Mayor Roy Cummings.
The river’s new course is causing severe erosion problems which increase the threat of further flooding, Cummings said on Tuesday. Cummings said he fully supports SOS in its efforts to find a long-term solution to Sundre’s flooding problems.
“You know, we all recognize there’s a problem. There’s been study after study done on the river over the course of who knows how many years. It comes to a point in time when you draw a line in the sand and say, ‘What are you going to do to minimize the problem.’
“I think the people have had enough with the lack of action of all of those involved.”
Sundre town council has the option of passing a motion prepared by SOS, probably at its next meeting, said Cummings.
The two major obstacles will be getting permission to do the work and finding a way to pay for it, which Cummings said would likely be far beyond what a town of 2,500 people could muster.
However, he believes that there are enough contractors living in Sundre who have the desire, the expertise and the equipment to do the work at a minimal cost.
“I think there is equipment available right now to start tomorrow if they were given approval to do that,” said Cummings.
“It’s time to be proactive and miminize and mitigate the impact of these high waters.”