Erosion plan on track

Town of Sundre officials are hoping to get federal government approval later this year to begin work on a Red Deer River anti-erosion project to safeguard the town.

Town of Sundre officials are hoping to get federal government approval later this year to begin work on a Red Deer River anti-erosion project to safeguard the town.

In August 2010, the town chose a plan to stem the erosion of riverbanks and reduce the risk of flooding and the province came through with $2.4 million to pay for the project.

Sundre Mayor Annette Clews said the town hopes to have the final engineering work done by Nov. 17.

“Then we can apply for our permits,” she said. “It is on track (but) we don’t know yet whether we’re going to be able to do winter construction.

“That’s up to the DFO (federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans).”

To divert water away from the most vulnerable parts of the riverbank, engineers propose building 14 spurs into the river to slow water flow at those points.

Another bank protection measure involves “armouring” 90 metres of bank with riprap, a barrier typically made from rocks wrapped in wire mesh.

The length of the permitting process can vary greatly, depending on whether the federal department requires additional studies.

“We’re hopeful we can do (the construction) over the winter,” she said.

“The reality is there are certain areas that are very time-sensitive. Depending on the what kind of spring runoff we have, we could potentially have exposed water and sewer lines.”

The town has had to close off parts of a trail along the river because erosion has eaten away at the popular path.

Then-Environment Minister Rob Renner acknowledged when announcing the funding that public safety and ensuring that sewer lines weren’t exposed by erosion figured large in the decision.

“If you were to lose that sewer line, you’d be dumping raw sewage into the river and the cost would be far more than anything we would spend to do this mitigation now,” he said at the time.

Clews said winter is the best time to do the work because water levels are low and it allows for the spurs to be in place before spring runoff.

Doing the work during spring runoff would require getting additional permits to divert the river to allow the spurs to be built.

Municipal officials and a group formed to lobby the province for funding called Save Our Sundre have long argued that the project should be considered disaster relief because much of the erosion problems were an offshoot of the 2005 floods, which saw the river overflow its banks in many places.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com