A new agreement between the Government of Alberta and power company TransAlta will target Alberta’s highest-risk flood zones, with plans to divert water in cases of flood or drought.
The $27.5-million, multi-year deal will modify operations at the Ghost Reservoir, located 45 km outside of Calgary, for flood mitigation annually between May 16 to June 7, and will adjust levels at three Kananaskis-area reservoirs year-round. The measures provide the province with an additional defence against severe flood and drought events, which are expected to become increasingly severe. In addition to reservoir modification, the province has also invested in new flood hazard mapping, the restoration of wetlands, as well as community-level mitigation.
“Both flood and drought are serious concerns in southern Alberta,” Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips said in a news release. “This agreement provides more storage capacity and greater flexibility to help protect communities along the Bow River from the potentially devastating effects of flood and drought, and the uncertainties of a changing climate.”
Stated Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, “…This is not only an important investment in the protection of people and the environment, it’s an investment in the resilience of our economy through the protection of downtown Calgary.”
The TransAlta deal is the latest measure in flood mitigation taken out by the province. The Springbank reservoir plan, currently under environmental impact study, would divert water away from Calgary during the Elbow River’s flood season and into a canal west of the city.
There is speculation that these measures could lead to lower flood and home insurance premiums for Albertans living in high-risk flood areas – however, unless insurers change their overland flooding policies, reductions aren’t likely, says Robyn Young of Lundgren & Young Insurance.
“It depends on the company, and unfortunately each company has different wording, but essentially… let’s say you’re within 100 metres of moving water – your coverage would either not be available at all, and if you’re at 101 metres, it would be extremely expensive,” she says. “So unless they change their ratings, because they do most of that by postal code, I don’t anticipate it will be any cheaper, at least not at first. Not until the companies look at those types of mitigation measures and determine what the risks for those properties would be.”
The summer 2013 flooding of the Bow and Elbow rivers that ravaged southern Alberta and brought downtown Calgary to a standstill is the most expensive natural disaster on record, costing insurers a total of $1.73 billion.