Suzanne Oel Councillor
Black Diamond/Turner Valley/Longview Local Political News Priddis/Millarville/Red Deer Lake

Councillor Update – Suzanne Oel – MD Foothills – Sep 2020

FRESC Update: We’re back in the news on this topic because a surprise announcement came from the Province this summer regarding taking EMS Dispatch away from Lethbridge, Calgary, Red Deer and Wood Buffalo, as a result of the 2019 AHS Report recommendation #34. We were advised that there would be consultation and had made submissions in support of these municipalities retaining their EMS Dispatch and requesting that ours be returned. We’ve made the case based on cost-savings and life-savings. We’ve made it for years because it is worth speaking up about and because of our negative experience with a reduced service level. The Government, as official opposition, supported retaining EMS dispatch in our 911 centers and, as you know, our Foothills Regional Emergency Services Commission (FRESC) has consistently supported that EMS and fire dispatch work best out of the same 911 center. So, along with these municipalities, we will remind our MLAs and Ministers that we have an effective solution, which will save time in the response to emergencies, save money and save lives. Please add your voice to this important matter, to ask that EMS dispatch remain in these centers and be returned to ours. For more info, visit

Lower Highwood River area needs Mitigation Funding: After the catastrophic flood event on the Highwood River in June of 2013, the Town of High River was permitted by the Government of Alberta to construct extensive flood mitigation, in the form of dikes along the Highwood River, to protect the Town from future extreme flood events. This work was undertaken with the understanding that it would create downstream impacts. Extensive flood modelling and analysis showed that the diking in High River altered the flow split between the Highwood and Little Bow rivers and as a result, 109 properties in Foothills County downstream on the Highwood River were predicted to be negatively impacted, of which 11 had impacted residences. In some cases, as much as an additional meter of water was anticipated at these residences in a 2013 equivalent event. Starting in 2016 Foothills County began working with the Resilience and Mitigation Branch of Alberta Environment to come up with a scaled-back plan to mitigate the increased risk that had been created for our residents. The Lower Highwood Flood Mitigation Program in January 2018 contemplated buy-outs for the 11 properties with impacted residences, at a total cost of $12,853,628. In June of last year, we wrote to thank the Government of Alberta for their generous support and approval of year one of Phase I of this Mitigation Program, where Foothills County received an initial contribution of $2 million to begin the process of offering buy-outs for properties with impacted residences. We were disappointed to receive a letter from the Environment Minister, in March 2020, indicating that there is no funding available at this time to continue the Lower Highwood program. We understand that the current budget reflects a commitment to “responsible fiscal management” and that the COVID-19 pandemic has put significant additional strain on provincial funds. However, the Government of Alberta, who made the decision to grant approvals for the mitigation works at High River with an understanding of the potential impacts to downstream landowners, is ultimately responsible for increasing flood risk for these residents of Foothills County. These landowners, through no choice of their own, are providing a valuable ecosystem service to the Town of High River by becoming part of the Town’s flood plain management strategy and now, it seems, are expected to bear the cost. As such, we are asking the Government of Alberta to re- consider making a commitment to fully funding the Lower Highwood Flood Mitigation Program. (Thank you to our County Staff who have been working on this project behind the scenes on behalf of residents.)

Best Regards, Councillor Suzanne Oel
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