Anyone who has lived in Drumheller long enough, knows this valley is prone to flooding. Each spring, property owners along the floodplain wait and worry about what the Red Deer River will bring into the valley. But last month they had an occasion to breathe a sigh of relief, as after years, maybe decades, of work by town councils and administrations, $50 million in flood mitigation funding was announced for Drumheller and its communities.
But now that the town has been promised this dream funding for flood mitigation, what are the next steps to help get the valley prepared in the event of another flooding disaster as was seen in 1915, 1948, 2005, or 2013?
Town CAO Darryl Drohomerski likened the news of the provincial and federal flooding last month, which will see the feds dole out $22 million and the province another $28 million, as a kid waking up on Christmas morning and seeing all the presents they asked for under the tree.
“You’re a little bit shocked that you got it all. So we got all of this, so now what?,” he said.
While the exciting work of moving dirt and building dykes is at least a year in the future, work has already begun to start planning and conceptualizing the flood mitigation projects which will take from between six to 10 years to completion. Mr. Drohomerski said a project director will be hired later this month to begin overseeing the project, and for the rest of the year consultation work, such as environmental and cultural assessments with local indigenous groups, will be completed. He doesn’t expect any construction of new berms or dykes to begin until 2020, but is certain work will begin then.
“There’s an awful lot to do before any dirt gets moved,” Drohomerski said.
There is existing assessment and proposals for flood mitigation improvement in Drumheller from previous councils, but much of the work is very basic and will be revisited and expanded on as engineering services are brought in to provide plans and cost estimates for the work to be done.
The valley’s existing dykes will be required to be elevated around one metre, and expanded width-wise by three metres for each metre they are elevated. So far, most of Drumheller’s communities (Midland, Newcastle, downtown Drumheller, Riverside, and parts of Rosedale) have existing flood barriers which are either adequate or need to be elevated, but there are other communities such as Nacmine, parts of Rosedale, and parts of East Coulee, Lehigh, and Cambria without dykes or berms. The goal with this funding is to once and for all flood proof all parts of Drumheller, from Nacmine to Wayne to East Coulee.
One piece to be dealt with this year is to transfer ownership of some dykes, which are provincially owned, from the province to the town, work which began last year but was halted while Drumheller awaited news of funding approval. Another piece is that the provincial administration was required to wait until after this provincial election before they could confirm their matched funding for the project, but Drohomerski doesn’t foresee an issue if the province changes leadership after the April 16 election.
The funding came from the new federal Disaster and Mitigation Fund, a $2 billion fund which will see the cost of flood mitigation split between the feds, the province, and the town 50/40/10, respectively.