Sundre waiting for project OK

The clock is ticking on the Town of Sundre’s plan to build rock-reinforced spurs to stem severe erosion problems.

The clock is ticking on the Town of Sundre’s plan to build rock-reinforced spurs to stem severe erosion problems.

Work to construct the spurs and move 13,000 tonnes of stockpiled rock must be done while the river is frozen and can handle the weight of equipment.

“The more frozen it is, the better for us,” said Ron Baker, the town’s director of operational services.

“We’ve got to have this done in March.”

However, construction can’t begin on the $2.4-million project until approvals from Alberta Environment, Alberta Sustainable Resource and Development and the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans are lined up.

“We met with them last week and things are rolling along pretty good,” Baker said on Monday. Only the Navigable Waters Department has not been heard from so far.

“I’m optimistic that this is going to go,” he said, adding that government partners have been doing what they can.

“We sent a letter along with the application that this is an emergency. Hopefully, that helps out.”

The project got a big boost from the provincial government last August when it announced that it would provide the necessary funding. Then-Environment Minister Rob Renner said that public safety was involved because erosion threatened to expose municipal sewer lines. The town has also had to close part of a popular path that has been eaten away by the river.

In anticipation of getting its approvals, the town has been busy preparing. In December, it tendered the first part of the project, stockpiling the massive amounts of rock needed to construct a dozen riprap-reinforced spurs 30 to 40 metres into the river to divert flow away from fragile riverbanks.

A second round of tenders came in last week on the spur construction and the numbers are in line with budget estimates.

There is a sense of urgency in getting the project done this spring. If it doesn’t happen while the ice is in, the work will have to be put off until next winter.

It’s tough to predict how high the river flow will be this spring, said Baker. The biggest threat is if spring rains come while the snow pack remains.

But any runoff poses a risk now.

“Even last year we didn’t have a major runoff and it really eroded the bank. We are so vulnerable right now.

“A normal spring runoff will cause us more damage,” he said.

Only if the river shifts course and takes a channel away from vulnerable areas will the town be less vulnerable to runoff. But Baker isn’t counting on that.

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