By Cole Parkinson
Even with the recent overland flooding behind the Municipal District of Taber, efforts are still working towards bettering their drainage situation.
With the M.D. of Taber being the administrative body for the South-Regional Stormwater Drainage Plan since 2012, the goal of the committee has been to mitigate damages due to overland flooding.
One of the biggest projects for the team has been an emergency spillway from St. Mary’s River Irrigation District’s main canal system from the outlet of Stafford Lake which would take water directly to the Oldman River during severe flood or run-off situations.
“This is a project that the Southern Regional Drainage Committee has been working on. The goal of the committee has been how do we work with the irrigation districts in storm events like we had this spring? Are damages being done to their infrastructure and our infrastructure? After 2012, we were given grant funding to do a study. That study produced half a dozen recommendations but the main priority we feel is the spillway that would go from SMRID main canal and go into horseshoe into Taber Lake and be diverted down into the river. The question becomes how do you pay for this?” Reeve Brian Brewin asked council at their regular meeting on September 11.
The estimate for the total cost of the Horsefly Regional Emergency Spillway project is estimated to be at $47.1 million.
If the project is approved, the M.D. could receive grants from the federal government under the Disaster Mitigation and Adaption fund which may amount to 40 per cent of the estimated cost of the overall project of $18,846,000, though they won’t be notified of this until mid-October or early November.
The deadline for applications is spring 2019 and they are aware that there could be an additional $78,272 in engineering fees to complete the application.
Also if the project is approved, the M.D. could receive grants from the province under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program which would cover 33 per cent of the estimated cost which is $15,547,950.
Deadline for applications was September 30 and could require additional engineering fees of $18,270 to complete the application.
Even with the grants, the M.D. would still have $12,721,050 left to fully fund the project.
“It’s been a long ongoing issue that the M.D has been working with SMRID to get an emergency spillway to Oldman River during intensive storms and snowfalls,” said Jack Dunsmore, a contract worker for the M.D. of Taber. “MP engineering was hired to do a study that was completed in 2014 with different options to control the flooding.”
The recent overland flooding earlier this spring was a good reminder as to why this project is so important to complete.
“As you saw this spring there was a lot of work done to keep the main canal system from breaching, overflowing and flooding,” added Dunsmore.
Staff estimates the outlet to the Oldman River would take pressure off the canal system and reservoirs east of Stafford Lake and would allow the canal system to pick up runoff water.
The M.D. of Taber also has several things they need to complete before any of the groundwork begins.
“The next steps we would have to follow through with is, we have been advised by the province to apply for the Community Resiliency Funding and that is a big step in getting any funding. I think if you have an application in under the provincial, the federal portion would look far more favourable,” explained Dunsmore. “We will need some extra engineering to get the applications complete but the engineering firm is willing to front that cost at this point. If the program is successful and everything comes together, they would expect to be paid.”
While council had the option of not moving forward with the applications, they were advised it would probably be best if they did.
With federal and provincial elections on the horizon, administration pointed out funding would likely not be available in the coming years.
“The concern is if we don’t undertake it now and we choose to delay the applications because we always have the option to say we don’t want the funding. If we delay it, there are two elections. We have the opportunity for three grants totalling about 75 per cent of the total project cost. We doubt that will happen anytime soon again,” stated CAO Derrick Krizsan.
As flooding affected tons of the area this spring, the need for drainage plans is needed for a number of municipalities.
“Everybody knows now that drainage is their problem because it’s happening everywhere,” said Dunsmore.
A motion was made by M.D. of Taber council to proceed with the applications for funding for the Horsefly Regional Emergency Spillway project and was passed unanimously.