Residents defend illegal berm

An illegal berm on the Little Red Deer River saved 16 homes from flooding a few days ago, says the man who built it.

An illegal berm on the Little Red Deer River saved 16 homes from flooding a few days ago, says the man who built it.

Bryce Schacher, who lives in the hamlet of Westward Ho, about five minutes east of Sundre, has been ordered by Alberta Environment to either prove that the berm he built meets engineering standards or have it removed by August 31.

Contacted at his home on Tuesday, Schacher said he cannot afford either of the two options and will risk going to jail if he can’t find a solution before the deadline.

Schacher and his neighbours have pleaded with three levels of government for help, but none has arrived.

Reeve of Mountain View County Paddy Munro worries about what happens with the berm in the future. Who will be liable for the damages if a wall of water comes through and wipes out the homes behind it, asks the reeve of Mountain View County.

Schacter started building the berm in the summer of 2005, after rising waters from the Little Red Deer River wiped out a neighbouring RV Park. A few kilometres away, the Red Deer River and Bearberry Creek had flooded their banks and poured onto the streets of Sundre, washing out chunks of riverbank and moving the Red Deer’s channel dangerously close to the town centre.

Schacher did some more work on the berm in 2007 and completed it in 2008.

Munro, who was instrumental in forming the Save Our Sundre committee after the floods had subsided, said on Tuesday that he supports the town’s efforts to have the riverbanks stabilized at Sundre to prevent erosion.

However, the county has not taken any position on the berm at Westward Ho because it is in Alberta Environment’s hands, said Munro, who is councillor for the division that includes Westward Ho.

He has asked for a meeting with Environment Minister Rob Renner to discuss flooding issues along the Red Deer and Little Red Deer Rivers, but a date has not yet been set.

He hopes the meeting with Renner can take place as soon as possible.

“We definitely want to talk with the minister about the berm,” said Munro, who raised the issue during a recent convention in Halifax of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Wild Rose MP Blake Richards has advised the county that the federal government will not discuss offering any help until the landowners, municipal governments and provincial government reach a consensus on what needs to be done along the Red Deer and Little Red Deer Rivers, said Munro.

The sites at Sundre and Westward Ho are just two on a list of problems involving rivers flowing through the county, he said.

Mountain View is still seeking federal approval to rebuild a 70-year-old bridge destroyed by an arsonist two years ago and there are also concerns that floodwaters could wipe out a section of Hwy 27 between Sundre and Olds, said Munro.

MLA Ty Lund, Environment Minister Renner and MP Richards could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. However, a spokeswoman from Renner’s office confirmed that a meeting with Mountain View County is being scheduled.