Residents of Bowness impacted by the breaching of the Bow River’s banks in 2013, or those concerned for the future of their property should the area experience another flood, gathered on Tuesday for a City of Calgary hosted information session on the proposed construction of a barrier.

“Tonight’s kind of the first stage of looking at the end results after several years of consultation with the public but also with the expert panel,” said Ward Sutherland, Ward 1 councillor. “Obviously the individuals along the river are apprehensive but the people in the interior have been waiting a long time to have some mitigation occur.”

Sutherland says he hopes the discussion alleviated the concerns of residents who feared an unsightly, massively tall structure would be erected. “I’ve seen the berms along Inglewood. They look very natural, they’re not ugly, and if you actually talk to anybody in Inglewood, they’re very happy with them.”

Frank Frigo, leader of the City of Calgary’s watershed analysis, says the flooding of the Bow River is an issue that extends well outside the City of Calgary’s jurisdiction and the City has identified three mitigation measures that include:

The construction of a new reservoir on the Bow River upstream of Calgary

The effective use of existing reservoirs, including TransAlta’s Ghost Reservoir, to offer additional flood resilience

Constructing flood protection barriers within Calgary

“We understand that we can’t solve this problem just with infrastructure, operations and work within the city.”

Frigo says Tuesday’s information session was intended to address the concerns and questions of those with memories of the 2013 flooding.

“We want to make sure that Calgarians, and, in particular tonight, citizens of Bowness, have an opportunity to understand all the work that has happened in the last four years,” explained Frigo. “We want to continue to work with the Bowness community, and other communities along the Bow River, to plan and assess this type of infrastructure, refine the design, but, importantly, we want to do more technical work by engaging a consultant and starting to look at detailed design so we can assess cost and design in greater detail.”

Not all Bowness residents we’re sold on the City of Calgary’s plan. Andy Ross, a Bow Crescent resident that owns property that backs onto the river, quickly identified a potential flaw in the mitigation effort.

“The upstream dam isn’t funded yet. They don’t have a site chosen and the Bowness barrier does not work without the upstream dam,” said Ross. ““We’d like to see a provincial commitment to funding that and a site chosen and to know, just like the Springbank dry dam, that a project is going to go ahead.”

“It’s a critical part of their plan, this three-part plan, and they’ve got no commitments to it yet.”

While the process of introducing mitigation measures continues, Ross is encouraging the city to take preparations ahead of a potential disaster.

“We’d actually like to see some temporary measures put in place,” said Ross. “Sandbags are massively effective. Why can’t the city stockpile sandbags for residents to access in the case of the flood?”

If the proposed Bowness barrier is approved, Sutherland says construction could begin in 2020.