They can move tonnes of rock in a single sweep, but they need more help budging the wheels of bureaucracy.
A team of citizens from Sundre, led by retired MP Myron Thompson, has lined up earthmovers, backhoes and people packing shovels for a rally on Sunday to demonstrate their fears that the Red Deer River is about to wash their town away.
Members of Save Our Sundre (SOS), organized by the Chamber of Commerce and supported by town council, have been pushing federal and provincial officials for permission to shift the river back to the channel where it ran before extreme flooding in 2005. The river has crept closer to homes and businesses every year since then, says the group.
Members believe that, left to run is current course, the river will overflow its banks and flood the town during its annual spring runoff, expected to begin in three weeks or less.
The group has been told that, despite imminent danger, it will take 12 to 18 months to get permits to excavate the river, Thompson said on Wednesday.
There has been a suggestion that the banks could be armoured to prevent further erosion, but that’s no help at all as long it continues to run its current course, he said.
Cold weather has held up the anticipated flood so far, said Thompson. But SOS has found two points on the river’s edge, both within one kilometre of town, that the group believes are setting up to flood.
Thompson said he has never been more riled up over bureaucratic foot-dragging.
“I get so frustrated that people just don’t seem to get it, and part of the problem is they don’t come down here and stand on the bank . . . and watch it erode steadily as it comes creeping towards the town.”
He’s hoping the rally on Sunday will get the message out that something can be done to protect the town, and that it should be neither expensive nor complicated.
“We just need to do that now,” he said.
The rally is set to take place in Sundre from 2 to 4 p.m., where Hwy 27 crosses the Red Deer River.
Contact Brenda Kossowan at firstname.lastname@example.org