A Sundre town councillor blasted the province on Wednesday after it turned down a $200,000 grant to build a second gas line to serve as a backup in cases of flooding.
The new loop, which would serve homes and businesses on the east side of the Red Deer River, is a high priority for local representatives. It is needed to provide a second source of natural gas should the current gas main running underneath the Hwy 27 bridge be damaged by flooding as it was during last year’s spring runoff.
Myron Thompson, a town councillor and former Member of Parliament, said he has been dealing with river issues since the 1970s and remains frustrated with the province’s lack of response to local concerns.
In the case of the gas line, high waters tore the main loose and left it dangling under the bridge. Fortunately, the line was not broken and gas service was not interrupted.
“We managed to keep it intact, but obviously it could easily be snapped off and cause all kinds of grief. It could even end up in a dangerous situation of an explosion of some kind.”
A Foothills Gas Co-op line is in place on the east side that the town could connect to, meaning the approximately 1,375 residents there would not have to rely on a river crossing connection in an emergency.
Thompson expressed frustration with the province’s “neglect.”
“Their job is to do what’s necessary on the streams to keep communities safe. They’ve done nothing, absolutely nothing, and I’m really sick of it.
“The rivers and streams of every province are the responsibility of the province. More and more I’m seeing it passed down to local municipalities, and we can’t afford that stuff.”
Funding had been applied for under the province’s $210-million Flood Recovery Erosion Control Program, but was turned down.
A separate application under the same program was successful and a $3.1 million grant was given to Sundre and Mountain View County for construction of an anti-flooding berm upstream of the town.
In a letter to the town, a provincial official concedes the rejection of the smaller grant request may be difficult for the community, “however we tried to make the best decisions possible given the timing of and amount of information received in the application …”
The letter goes on to say the province tried to balance decisions against priorities set by the town and the requirements of the provincial flood control program.
The town is now considering applying for a grant under a different provincial program.