Clock is ticking on Sundre

Back in the flood of 2005, a lot of farmers whose property touches the Red Deer River lost a good chunk of their land to erosion. A lot more also gained hundreds of tonnes of new topsoil, as murky river water dropped a heavy layer of fertile silt on the flat fields and pastures that make up the river’s ancient floodplain.

Back in the flood of 2005, a lot of farmers whose property touches the Red Deer River lost a good chunk of their land to erosion. A lot more also gained hundreds of tonnes of new topsoil, as murky river water dropped a heavy layer of fertile silt on the flat fields and pastures that make up the river’s ancient floodplain.

But for better or worse, it was determined that these events are just the hand of nature.

If you farm near the banks of a meandering stream like the Red Deer River, it’s understood that natural forces are going to change the local geology once every few decades. So it’s expected that farmers will build far enough up the riverbanks and away from the stream so as not to be in danger of flooding.

And if a river carves itself a new course across somebody’s farmland — as happened in 2005 — not too many people are saying it’s society’s job to put things back the way they were.

So if that’s the case with farm property, why isn’t that the case with recreational property?

Nobody disputes that the Town of Sundre is in grave danger of severe flooding the next time two fairly common weather patterns emerge: a spate of hot weather in the snow-capped mountains, followed by perhaps three days of steady rain.

The likelihood of that happening has got to be close to 100 per cent in this part of the country at this time of year.

The flood of 2005 caused the Red Deer to flow in a new course near Sundre. The banks in the area are very shallow, as the river’s path is shallow and new.

Anyone who stands at the point of divergence can easily see what it would take to bank up the new course, so the river will go back to its old path.

But rivers also cross a lot of political boundaries. Changing a river’s course takes co-operation between the federal and provincial governments, and all their overlapping environmental departments. Everybody has to do a study, everybody has make recommendations.

And the clock is ticking on the Town of Sundre and its residential and recreational lots, whose initial appeal has always been proximity to the river.

It makes no sense to allow the town to be destroyed by floods, simply because we believe in letting nature take its course.

The fix — to divert the river fully back into its old course — is not a catastrophic bit of engineering. As MLA Ty Lund put it: it’s not rocket science, nor is it too much to ask.

There’s just this: if it becomes government’s job to divert rivers for the sake of towns, sooner or later a flood is going to come down the channel that overwhelms human engineering.

When that happens, nobody’s going to sit back, shrug their shoulders and say that’s nature’s hand. They’re going to blame — and perhaps sue — the government.

The government said this area was safe! Now look what happened!

It also remains to be asked why natural forces are something farmers must live with, but not people with motorhomes in an RV park on a floodplain.

In this case, let’s protect the town. But there should be forewarning about development in the area: the upper part of town might someday be waterfront. Town planners should beware.

Floods, ice storms, hail, hurricanes, droughts are all reminders we are not masters of this Earth.

Greg Neiman is an Advocate editor.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Public Schools says that in the absence of additional funds from the provincial government, there was no consideration of using alternate classroom sites in the district. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Red Deer Public Schools launches online engagement process

Red Deer Public schools is seeking community input to help ensure a… Continue reading

Students walk into Hunting Hills High School, which is one of the Red Deer Public Schools with solar panels on its roof. (Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff)
Red Deer high school was placed in lockdown following potential threat

Hunting Hills High School was placed in a lockdown Friday after Red… Continue reading

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some details of the provincial government’s 2021-22 budget need to be ‘sorted out’ when it comes to the hospital expansion funding. (File photo by Advocate staff)
More detail needed regarding hospital funding, says Red Deer mayor

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some information is unclear regarding the… Continue reading

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

Nicole Buchanan, chair of Red Deer Public Schools board, says it’s too soon to say how the provincial government’s 2021-22 will impact the district. (Contributed file photo)
Red Deer school boards react to provincial budget

It’s still too soon to say how the latest provincial budget will… Continue reading

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

A worker carrying a disinfectant sprayer walks past a WestJet Airlines Boeing 737-800 aircraft, after cleaning another plane at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Thursday, January 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
WestJet to lay off undisclosed number of pilots amid labour negotiations

WestJet to lay off undisclosed number of pilots amid labour negotiations

The Site C Dam location is seen along the Peace River in Fort St. John, B.C., Tuesday, April 18, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
British Columbia’s Site C dam to cost $16 billion, delayed until 2025

British Columbia’s Site C dam to cost $16 billion, delayed until 2025

Mark Machin, President and CEO of Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, speaks at a seminar on building a sustainable social security system in Beijing, China on Monday, Feb.20, 2017. Machin has resigned after admitting he was vaccinated for COVID-19 abroad. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Canada Pension Plan Investment Board MANDATORY CREDIT
CPP Investments CEO Mark Machin resigns after travelling to UAE for COVID-19 vaccine

CPP Investments CEO Mark Machin resigns after travelling to UAE for COVID-19 vaccine

Selina Robinson listens to Premier John Horgan in Coquitlam, B.C., Friday, Nov. 17, 2017. Robinson, B.C's finance minister, says she's encouraged by predictions that British Columbia's economy will rebound this year and next. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Economists predict slight rebound and moderate growth for B.C. economy in 2021

Economists predict slight rebound and moderate growth for B.C. economy in 2021

A street sign along Bay Street in Toronto's financial district is shown on Tuesday, January 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
S&P/TSX composite falls as commodities, financials struggle

S&P/TSX composite falls as commodities, financials struggle

This image released by Briarcliff Entertainment shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, with journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a scene from the documentary "The Dissident." (Briarcliff Entertainment via AP)
US implicates Saudi crown prince in journalist’s killing

US implicates Saudi crown prince in journalist’s killing

This image released by Amazon Studios shows Maria Bakalova, left, and Sacha Baron Cohen in a scene from "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm." The film was nominated for a Golden Globe for best musical/comedy.(Amazon Studios via AP)
Breakout ‘Borat’ star Maria Bakalova conquers Hollywood

Breakout ‘Borat’ star Maria Bakalova conquers Hollywood

Doctors, caregivers push for in-home COVID-19 vaccinations for housebound seniors

Doctors, caregivers push for in-home COVID-19 vaccinations for housebound seniors

Most Read