By Cole Parkinson
Progress to getting the Horsefly Spillway project underway is continuing to move in the right direction.
With discussions around the project coming often, a delegation from MPE was in Municipal District of Taber chambers to update councillors on the progress at their regular meeting on July 9.
“This started approximately six years ago after the flooding in 2013. The government at the time and Minister of Alberta Environment asked the M.D. of Taber to spearhead a committee to look at drainage problems in southern Alberta from Lethbridge to Medicine Hat. Specifically, the area that drains into the SMRID (St. Mary River Irrigation District) main canal system,” explained Ron Hust from MPE and South Regional Stormwater Committee.
Hust highlighted the fact the project was needed to provide a reliable system to remove drainage water from urban and rural areas safely and efficiently.
From previous meetings, the Regional Drainage Committee had established prevention of injury or death, protection of municipal/ irrigation district infrastructure and private property, prevention of economic losses from flooding and enabling increased ag production and future development as their key priorities.
Further to that, canal system improvements are recommended by the committee in projects of expansion of Chin, Sherburne and Murray Reservoirs, construction of diversion spillways into Horsefly and Sherburne Reservoir, increased capacity at Sauder Spillway, construction of a dry dam detention facility on Paradise Creek and construction of pump-out facilities at flooded sites adjacent to main canal.
“The majority of the area we are looking at is south of the SMRID main canal,” said Hust.
Costs for these projects are estimated at $39 million for Chin expansion, $13 million for Sherburne spillway/expansion, $47 million Horsefly Spillway, $13 million for Sauder spillway, $25 million for Murray expansion, $13 million for Paradise Creek dry dam and $2 million for 20 sites of drain inlet pumping stations for a total estimate of $152 million.
Of the projects listed, the Horsefly Spillway is at the top of the list.
“The Horsefly Spillway was given the number one priority and it was in three phases. Phase 1 is construction on the spillway from the Oldman (River) to Taber Lake. Phase 2 is an expansion of the existing TID canal from Taber Lake to Horsefly. The third phase would be a spillway off the SMRID main canal into Horsefly. The Horsefly Spillway will take all water from basically Stafford or Chin to the Horsefly and empty the SMRID main canal at that point. The flows that go into the SMRID would start again at zero at the Horsefly Spillway,” continued Hust. “Last fall, the regional committee decided to apply for ACRP (Alberta Community Resiliency Program) funding. The Horsefly Spillway was chosen as the number one priority both provincially and federally. So far, Phase 1 is estimated at ($22,417,000). Today, ($7,397,610) has been approved by ACRP.”
That leaves $15,019,390 unfunded for the first phase.
Phase 2 sees a cost of $15,208,000, with $5,018,640 from ACRP and $10,189,360 unfunded, Phase 3 is at $9,490,000 total, $3,131,700 from ACRP funding and $6,358,300 unfunded.
With $15,547,950 partially funded by ARCP Hust explained that there is still work to be done.
“The funding is up in the air at this time, there is no money in the bank account. But the project is approved and it will come up in the budget deliberations in October with the provincial government. At this point, we are proceeding as if the money is still there,” he said.
Another route for the project lies within federal funding through the Disaster Mitigation and Adaption Fund (DMAF).
DMAF funds would cover up to 40 per cent and with the 33 per cent from ACRP, 73 per cent of the project would be funded.
The only hitch with DMAF contribution is there is a stipulation that the project would have to be completed within 10 years of being approved.
“Last year, the committee submitted Phase 1 and the project was accepted. The government came back and asked the committee because of the proposed construction timelines if the committee could hold off on submitting Phase 2 until this fall. Right now we are preparing the Phase 2 application,” explained Hust.
Assuming 73 per cent of the project would be funded by the federal and provincial government, that would leave municipalities holding the bag for $12,721,131 for the Horsefly Spillway project and $41,040,000 total for the rest of the projects.
Stakeholders within the committee include the County of Forty-Mile, Lethbridge County, Cypress County, Cardston County, County of Warner, City of Lethbridge, Town of Taber, Town of Coaldale, SMRID and TID.
With no mention of the City of Lethbridge, council asked why they had not been at the table.
“The City of Lethbridge hasn’t been apart of this since day one as there isn’t any portion of the city of Lethbridge that drains into the SMRID main canal. That is the biggest part of the criteria,” replied Hust.
With a need to figure out how to fund the rest, the committee came up with a funding methodology which was determined by looking at population, total area within study boundaries, area of jurisdiction draining into SMRID main canal, assess value of property within drainage area and if there was a direct benefit of the proposed project.
“One thing brought up by a few municipalities was how much SMRID and TID would be contributing to the spillway. The above criteria does not allow for TID and SMRID to be included in those calculations and SMRID has been very clear at the meetings that they have no money to put into this project. What they are doing though is, they operate irrigation systems that receives the runoff so they are presently putting together a value of that system as their contribution,” added Hust.
Three different funding options were presented to council based on those criteria.
The first was criteria one to four (unweighted) which saw the M.D. at 16.6 per cent, the second was criteria one to four (weighted) and was at 16.43 per cent while the third was a separate funding model based specifically on the Horsefly Spillway which saw the M.D. at 11.3 per cent.
Taking all three, the funding formula was averaged at 15 per cent (unweighted), 50 per cent (weighted) and 35 per cent (criteria five).
The M.D. would be required for 15 per cent funding which totals to $6,156,000 for the entire project and $1,908,200 for the Horsefly Spillway.
As far as the other municipalities, the County of Forty-Mile was at 15.5 per cent ($6,361,200 total), Lethbridge County was 16 per cent ($6,566,400), Cypress County was 14 per cent ($5,745,600), Cardston County was four per cent ($1,641,600), County of Warner was five per cent ($2,052,000), Coaldale was 12 per cent ($4,924,800), Taber was 12.5 per cent ($5,130,000), and Medicine Hat was six per cent ($2,462,400).
A motion was made to support the projects at 15 per cent funding and was unanimously carried.