17 June 2014

Alberta politicos hedge on flood mitigation

After the great flood in Calgary last year, municipal and provincial governments agreed something had to be done to prevent another such catastrophe. There were, however, no shortage of sceptics. There would be bold promises initially, they said, but the commitments would wane with time, people would start to forget, and much less would be done than promised. The sceptics, it seems, may be right.

Last week, a study of a proposed tunnel that would divert Elbow River flood waters from above the city to downstream on the Bow River concluded the cost would be $457-million. The reaction from both levels of government was less than encouraging. “Five hundred million dollars would build us a fair bit of LRT," said Mayor Naheed Nenshi, "Five hundred million dollars would go a long way towards solving the congestion problems on Crowchild Trail.” Premier Dave Hancock, too, exuded caution. "You know, we have to look at projects in the context of the effect on everybody who will be affected by it," he opined.

The numbers suggest an easy decision. If all the projects proposed to tame the Elbow were built—the tunnel plus a dry dam at McLean Creek and an off-stream reservoir at Springbank Road—the cost would come to $837-million. The flood cost $6-billion, not including the victims' personal expenses and heartache. In other words, the three projects would pay out over seven times if they prevented just one 2013 flood. They would, of course, protect us from many floods.

Nonetheless, here we are only a year later and already our governments are hedging. Major projects to prevent Elbow flooding have been proposed before and none survived the test of time. The cynics have history on their side.

1 comment:

  1. It's the curse of dysfunctional governments today. Problems big and small get kicked down the road wherever possible. Our federal government has made this its credo.

    America's flood insurance system is a powerful example. Private insurers won't touch this coverage so the federal government had to step in. The claims have become so massive that the government needed to increase premiums to realistic levels to save the insurance programme. That would have caused flood-prone property values to plummet and the owners set aside their loathing of socialism and howled for subsidies. The feds capitulated - for now - meaning those southerners (predominantly) will get their insurance subsidized by northerners and just keep on bitching about socialism.