By Trevor Busch
Town council is pushing hard for some immediate solutions to ongoing drainage issues which have been negatively impacting various business operations in the industrial area.
At their Sept. 8 meeting, council directed administration to engage with the Taber Irrigation District (TID) and Volker Stevin to come back to council with specific immediate solutions for problem areas in the industrial area, complete with timelines for completion.
Discussion on the matter was initiated by Coun. Joe Strojwas, who referenced an “observational report” which had identified flooding and drainage issues in the industrial area almost a decade ago, in 2006.
“Back in the spring we had some issues with water flows again. This problem seems to be getting more regular, not less regular,” said Coun. Strojwas. “These aren’t one in 100 floods anymore, these aren’t even one in five. These are happening a couple of times a year. This report that was done back in 2006 by Venture Holdings, I think it outlines a lot of the problems that still exist — undersizing of culverts, ditches not being kept clean — I would like to see a maintenance program put together for all of the ditches all the way around town, wherever there is irrigation ditches, that they are looked after and maintained properly, the culverts sized properly to get this water out of town, because there is a bottleneck getting under Highway 36.”
Coun. Strojwas advocated for an emergency expenditure of funds to begin immediately rectifying drainage problems in the industrial area.
“I’d like this document that we have right now here today put out for a tendering process to correct some of these problems. Obviously we’ll have to involve Mr. Scherer (public works director) and the TID, but I believe we need to do this now. We need to find money in our budget to get this work done this fall, before we have someone that gets flooded out. We just have to put our foot down and say enough is enough — we need to do this, and we need to do it now. We need to include it as emergency funding in our budget for this fall, to go ahead.”
Agreeing that expeditious movement on the issue was necessary, Coun. Randy Sparks expressed the opinion that further analysis of the situation was not necessary, at least in the short term.
“This has been an ongoing issue for many years, and really the Band-Aid that the Town of Taber has put on this has amounted to nothing. A lot of the culverts are not on the proper grade, there’s a six to eight inch difference between the bed of the ditch and the inlet of the culvert — there’s all kinds of issues that are causing bottlenecks and issues with people just about getting flooded out on too regular a basis. I think this is vital. We don’t need a study to know that there’s an issue, and to know where that issue is. The town staff has the capabilities to deal with this, to rectify it, and to get some water moving. I think that this should be a priority, I think we need to look at this, and get the ball rolling and get this rectified.”
Coun. Jack Brewin echoed his fellow councillor’s concerns with regard to drainage issues facing business operators in the area.
“We drove around, and there’s ditches that haven’t been mowed this year, culverts are plugged. We’re not addressing our problems.”
Mayor Henk De Vlieger was also on side in pushing for some immediate solutions.
“It’s an issue that’s been going on for a long time, and I think we need to deal with it. We need to fix it soon, because with spring rains again, and we could get another one in the fall, who knows. I think we could be in for big liabilities.”
Although cognizant of problems in the area, CAO Greg Birch councelled caution in seeking resolution for issues which arguably might not always be the town’s full responsibility — while suggesting postponing any action on the issue until spring 2015.
“In the town’s defence, in part what has been happening here is a trade off between private values and public values, private money and public money. A solution for a private landowner who doesn’t want to have flooding is to built up their lot a little bit more. That costs them money, but then the town doesn’t have to control the flooding. I’m not saying what’s right and wrong, it’s just that by assuming it’s going to be the town that goes after it here, you’re taking on that entire project.”
Coun. Strojwas appeared to assign little value to an upcoming Associated Engineering report on the area, while continuing to agitate for immediate action.
“I’d like to carry this one step further, because I’m not prepared to wait. I’d like to have Mr. Scherer engaged with the Taber Irrigation District. I’m sure they have elevations as to what the level of that lake should be at, and some of those culverts. Rather than wait for this report, because I doubt very much that this report coming from Associated Engineering is going to have elevations on either side of those culverts going back to the problem areas. I know the TID has that because they move water. There’s a couple of good contracters in town who would probably relish the chance of taking this issue on with Mr. Scherer.”
Finding immediate solutions to the problem was vital and needs to see action now, added Coun. Strojwas.
“Before we leave this meeting tonight, I would like to have Mr. Scherer engaged with TID and private contracters on an emergency basis, and to prepare and come back to the next council meeting with some specific things that need to be done and addressed right away. I’m not prepared to wait, obviously. We need to do something, because that business commmunity is going to come down on us. Sitting here doing nothing is the worst thing that we can do.”
Public works director Gary Scherer seemed to agree that immediate action could be taken with a planned approach.
“The overall plan is to get those elevations, determine the sizes and locations, so we can have the proper flow, so we can accomodate businesses not getting flooded out. We need a plan developed to begin with. Moving forward, you don’t need an engineer to tell you water is backing up, and you need to do something right away.”