Leela Sharon Aheer MLA
Local Political News

Leela Sharon Aheer – MLA Chestermere/Rockyview – July 2018

Hello High Country News readers! We hope you are enjoying this beautiful weather. I am sure you have seen all the articles that have been written with respect to the Springbank Dam. It has been very interesting reading the impressions of different media, other politicians, and various “experts”. There are a few fundamental things we have to keep in mind. The land that will potentially be expropriated will no longer be able to produce food, the water that is retained will not be usable, SR1 does not store water for drought, and it does not protect all the communities. These fundamental truths are things that need to be considered in amongst the fear mongering, the politics, and the various personalities that are involved. I am also a politician, so obviously please take my impressions and perspectives as simply that. All I know is that we need to apply some common sense here. We should never allow government to divide us. If the claims were legitimate, and the land was being purchased fairly, then we could look at this through a different lens. Flooding and drought are not just issues of damage control, these are emotional issues of loss of personal property, pictures, and other memorabilia. The Springbank Community Association sent an excellent submission to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency with points of consideration. The letter speaks very eloquently about the costs of the project and to quote from the letter:

“All costs – economic, social, cultural, health and environmental should be considered, quantified and addressed in determining whether the SR1 is the right project for flood mitigation for the City of Calgary. We support flood mitigation efforts to protect the City of Calgary, but we table the question ‘Is there a better project that doesn’t cause undo harm to one community for the sole benefit of another?’

As proposed, the SR1 places the overwhelming majority of economic, social, health and environmental costs and burdens on one community (Springbank) and county (Rocky View County (“RVC”)). Conversely, all the benefits accrue to the City of Calgary. Perhaps it is time to consider options that may provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to benefit.”

The government has failed to provide any real cost benefit analysis or any real information on other alternatives. We are no closer to any real mitigation, and we are no closer to providing the citizens of Rocky View or Downtown Calgary any relief for future events whether that is flood or drought. Our biggest asset is our people and our voices. The financial burden on the Rocky View taxpayers for the SR1 dam will be massive with respect to expropriated land, you will find that this cost has not been accounted for in the plan. There is loss in economic development, and there is no compensation in the plan for any environmental, social or health risks as a result of this dam. I guess there was no “social license” required to take this homesteading land from these land owners.

The bigger question, is why will the government not look into MC1? There were no geo-technical studies done until the Canadian Environmental Agency got involved. Why is that? What about risk of fire, and drought? This project does nothing to help retain water. Where is the social impact study? If you have not read the report, please do. It is vital that as a community we understand what is going on and that our voices are heard. There are over 3000 voices that have petitioned against this project, so your voices are very important. The supposed “unbiased” opinions of experts have not done any real comparisons between McLean Creek and Springbank Dam. The one study that was done, by the Dutch firm Deltares based on information given to it by the Government, did not even address the fact that the Springbank project is one-dimensional and does nothing to mitigate drought. Again let us put this in perspective. The argument that the dam will remain dry is not true. They will have to flood it initially to test the infrastructure. It will take close to a month to release that water back into the river. This will happen every 6 or so years to test the viability of a flood event. In a flood evert there will be silt, dead animals, rot, and all manner of debris in a flood event that can not be accounted for as the water sits while waiting to be released into the river. This environmental impact was not taken into consideration. Calgarians have every right to demand flood protection, I don’t think there is a single person who would dispute this, but the methodology is flawed at best and will not provide mitigation for all or water for drought, forest fires, or consumption. There is no hard data on Mclean Creek, and new data was not made available until 2017. It is time for Albertans to come together to solve this problem as stated by Lee Drewry in the Calgary Herald on June 16, 2018 (The pros and cons of building a Springbank dry dam). Critical infrastructure is needed, but to be short sighted not only elevates the problem, it creates more problems than it seeks to mitigate. Let’s do what is in the best interest of both Calgarians and those who live in Rocky View. There is a solution, and it does not involve the divisiveness of government. It requires Albertans demanding efficient and well thought out solutions that will elevate our communities, not tear them down.

As always, we love to hear from you.

Leela Sharon Aheer
MLA for Chestermere – Rocky View

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