By Trevor Busch
Stormwater drainage improvements recommended for the Town of Taber in a recent report from MPE Engineering could end up costing the municipality more than $13 million.
At their April 13 meeting, town council voted unanimously to accept the draft Stormwater Master Plan presentation for information, and directed administration to investigate potential grant funding.
Developed by MPE Engineering, the purpose of the plan is to provide the town with recommendations for improvements to mitigate stormwater damage to existing development, as well as identify a plan to guide further development in a direction to take advantage of the natural features of the land.
“The two biggest areas of concern that we’ve dealt with since we’ve been councillors are the 56th Avenue drainage ditch for the industrial area, and the culverts to the Highway 3 ditch,” said Coun. Joe Strojwas. “Because those are the two we’ve really been pressed with, I would suggest those would be the two biggest priorities right now.”
In late 2014, the TID had expressed concerns about the quality of water draining into Taber Reservoir from the town’s industrial area, and impressed upon the town the need for treatment options in future if water continues to be diverted into the reservoir due to unacceptable levels of dissolved solids such as phosphorus and nitrogen.
Mayor Henk De Vlieger pointed out other drainage developments — such as treatment facilities for water currently draining into the Taber Irrigation District’s Taber Lake — also exist as priorities for the community.
“I think also, drainage into TID lake,” said De Vlieger. “It’s the most important one, because we have to deal with that.”
Representatives of MPE Engineering, Tom Leavitt and Matt Harker, covered the development of the master plan in a regional and local context, highlighting some of the key findings, including the eastside industrial park, a description of possible solutions along with associated costs, next steps in finalizing the Stormwater Master Plan, and finally outlining possible funding sources the Town of Taber can access.
According to MPE Engineering, collection system deficiencies in the community include a lack of stormwater storage, flooding, and a lack of treatment with runoff flowing directly into a Taber Irrigation District reservoir. The collection system is also considered to be undersized in the industrial area, as well as the 49th Street Trunk.
Options for drainage improvements in some parts of the industrial area are currently limited, with concrete swales recommended over ditch construction due to issues surrounding business access.
“We discussed this previous proposal with the ditches,” said De Vlieger. “The problems you would create for the landowners would be tremendous, and I think there would be a lot of opposition to it. This is more practical.”
Coun. Randy Sparks warned use of concrete often comes with its own issues in the municipality.
“At the same time, it all depends how it is installed, because there’s a very high water table,” said Sparks. “If concrete was so good in this area, we wouldn’t have to have a concrete replacement program for the Town of Taber, because of frost and all of these types of things, you know what happens to concrete. So you’re going to have to have a substantial amount of gravel underneath.”
Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux appeared to agree with Sparks’ comments on the issue.
“This (concrete swales) would be the least intrusive. But I worry also about the wear and tear on them, with frost heaves. I don’t want to be in the position where we’re constantly going out there to fix these swales. It’s certainly an advantage over ditches.”
Cost estimates for 11 recommended projects totalled $13,050,000, and include the East Stormwater Management Facility ($3,610,000), 56th Avenue Drainage Ditch Improvements ($340,000), South Industrial Drainage Improvements ($520,000), North Industrial Drainage Improvements ($880,000), Catchment H Runoff Direction ($180,000), Industrial Pond Expansion ($470,000), Eureka Stormwater Management Facilities ($2,540,000), Culverts to Highway 3 Ditch ($120,000), Southeast Stormwater Management Facility ($1,240,000), 50th Avenue Bio-Swale ($440,000), and 49th Street Storm Trunk Upgrades ($2,710,000).
As for the locations of various stormwater infrastructure projects to be completed, such as treatment facilities or retention ponds, Sparks indicated the municipality can always acquire what it needs — if the price is right.
“It’s all for sale. If you’ve got the right price it’s all for sale.”
Strojwas continued to champion moving forward with improvements to drainage in the area of 56th Avenue.
“This is a priority, 56th Avenue. Last year, we got a lot of flak over it, and it should be a priority.”
MPE Engineering is seeking feedback on the Stormwater Master Plan from town council and administration.