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The Honourable FranÁois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities announced funding for the Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir project at the Sweet Grass Lodge in Calgary on Wednesday March 13, 2019. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia The federal government has committed $168.5-million to the contentious Springbank dam project, despite a federal environment review being still incomplete and strong opposition to the project.

The announcement was made Wednesday at Sweetgrass Lodge in Calgary Stampede park by federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities François-Philippe Champagne, Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason, among others.

The funding is part of the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund, a $2-billion, 10-year program by the federal government to help build infrastructure in communities across Canada to better withstand natural hazards such as flooding, wildfires, earthquakes and droughts.

Nenshi said the funding is an important step in ensuring Calgary is protected from future flooding.

“Getting the Springbank dry dam built is critical. It’s critical to Calgary’s downtown core. It’s critical to the people who live here. It’s critical to the harmony of this region. It’s critical to this nation and not (allowing) downtown Calgary to be impacted by flood waters again,” he said.

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The proposed project is a dry reservoir that would store water temporarily during a flood. The Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir (SR1) would have capacity for more than 70 million cubic litres and be located 15 kilometres west of Calgary between Highway 8 and the Trans-Canada Highway, and east of Highway 22.

A federal environmental assessment and consultations with Indigenous communities are ongoing. Construction would not begin until there is a green light by the environment and climate change minister, and the legal duty to consult Indigenous peoples has been met.

The Tsuut’ina Nation wants Alberta to explore other flood mitigation options and has said SR1 would pollute groundwater and put reserve lands at risk in the event of another flood.

“With respect to Tsuut’ina, we definitely respect their decision. We are meeting with them very regularly to answer all of their questions, to hear their concerns,” said Mason. “With respect to what’s necessary in terms of a serious consultation with First Nations, we are being very diligent and rigorous in making sure that we do everything that is expected.” The Honourable Brian Mason, Alberta Minister of Transportation speaks to media after the Honourable FranÁois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities announced funding for the Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir project at the Sweet Grass Lodge in Calgary on Wednesday March 13, 2019. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia He said discussions are also ongoing with residents and landowners opposed to the project.

“We don’t want to expropriate — I’ve made it clear that if necessary we will — but we would much rather enter into a real, fair agreement to purchase the land (on) a voluntary basis with the landowners,” said Mason. “We respect that they have a stake in this community and they’ve been there for a long time, but I think the highest priority here is to protect the city of Calgary, which has over a million people.”

Outspoken landowner and former critic Ryan Robinson sold 188 hectares of land to the province in January. The large piece of property accounts for 20 per cent of the land required for the project. About 17 other landowners have yet to settle with the province.

Karin Hunter, president of the Springbank Community Association, has been a vocal critic of the project.

She said the announcement speaks to a lack of due process by the government.

“It’s surprising. It’s disappointing but, honestly, they’ve been rushing this project through the entire process,” said Hunter. “I continue to be disappointed, our community continues to be ignored — […]

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