Because the plan requires construction in sensitive areas of the River Valley, it needs to be approved by council. That still has to happen, but it passed its first test at the committee stage this week, with a 7-0 vote in favour.
“I don’t think we have any choice,” said Coun. Tim Cartmell. “I think this is being done in a very considered and deliberate way.”
And he said that moving a water treatment plant up the bank is financially impossible — it’s a move that would cost over $2 billion per plant.
The planned work scheduled to be completed by 2027, is needed. EPCOR has promised to restore more natural areas than is being affected by the installation of the flood-prevention barriers, and it claims it’s consulted with 32 different Indigenous groups as well as the Rossdale Community League. It has yet to provide a detailed plan on the restoration of natural areas, but there should be a mix of forested areas and grassland. There are also considerations that need to be met for wildlife corridors — large enough for deer and moose.
Kristine Kowalchuk, chair of the Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition, appeared in front of the committee to oppose the plan. She said that a wild, natural riverbank offers the best sort of flood mitigation, and that her group opposes the removal of 557 trees, 77 of them mature.
“We question the wisdom of holding back the river on a floodplain,” she said.
The EVCC warned that putting artificial barriers doesn’t always prevent flooding — and that Edmonton should join the Slow Water movement. This is a new urban planning idea, based on some very old-school wisdom. It suggests that cities do a better job understanding where water wants to go — and learn more about natural flooding patterns. The idea is that city building should happen with respect to where water travels naturally, and that we shouldn’t try to bend nature to our will.