A long-awaited erosion control project in Sundre has been completed with time to spare before its first spring runoff test.
Among those breathing a sigh of relief is Ron Baker, the town’s director of operations.
“That was my huge worry all winter long, to make sure we had this in place, because the shoreline wouldn’t have handled another high water,” Baker said on Friday.
He has been monitoring the snow pack closely, and so far it looks like a normal year.
But that can change quickly if heavy rains and snow melt combine as happened in 2005, the most recent major flood.
“June is the thing for us. Our last big flood was June 17. So mid-June is always my scariest time.”
Work on the $2.4 million project wrapped up about two weeks ago. Seven full-sized spurs ranging from 20 metres to 50 metres in length and constructed with a pit run core and reinforced with riprap now project into the river, along with a smaller, less substantial eighth spur. About 14,000 tonnes of rock was used.
The spurs are designed to protect vulnerable river banks from the full force of the river, especially when the water is running high.
Persistent erosion has eaten away at the banks, exposing sewer pipes and forcing the town to close a portion of a popular walking trail.
Baker said the project has been designed to handle a flood on the scale of 2005, but until the berms are put to the test there is no way of being sure.
Although similar spurs and a berm were built on the other side of the river as part of an Alberta Environment project, and worked well.
While the wait is on for the first runoff water, Baker already counts the project a success.
For years, town officials, local politicians and local residents involved in a group called Save Our Sundre, lobbied the province for money to undertake the project.
The Alberta government came through with that cash last July and the race was on to get the project engineered, tendered and constructed in time to beat the spring runoff.
The only work left to do is to undertake some fish habitat improvements.
As part of its approvals with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the town agreed to enhance fish habitats elsewhere as a kind of trade-off for the habitat disturbed by the spur project.
Baker said among the projects being tackled are fixes to culvert sites so that fish are able to swim through them again.
At some culverts, erosion has left the culverts too high for fish to reach. Other work could involve creating pools for fish along the river.