Tsuut’ina Trail bridge over El­bow River on hold after en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns raised.

Wet­land con­cerns from Tsuut’ina Trail span over El­bow River

Calgary Sun - - NEWS - BRYaN PaS­SI­FI­UME

Less than 24 hours after its ap­proval, con­struc­tion of a con­tentious ring road over­pass has been put on hold.

The eleventh-hour stay is­sued Satur­day by Al­berta’s En­vi­ron­men­tal Ap­peals Board (EAB) puts the brakes on the pro­ject’s El­bow River bridge — one that op­po­nents say will ir­reparably dam­age ad­ja­cent wet­lands and pose sig­nif­i­cant im­pacts down­stream.

It’s a cau­tious vic­tory for those op­posed to the river cross­ing’s cur­rent de­sign — a nearly kilo­me­tre-long earthen berm span­ning the width of the val­ley, with the river diverted through a bridged 150-me­tre gap.

Aside from the im­pact to lo­cal wildlife, crit­ics fear such a cross­ing would dan­ger­ously con­strict the river — in­creas­ing the flood risk and de­grad­ing down­stream wa­ter qual­ity.

“Our big­gest con­cern is that they’re fill­ing in 24 wet­lands, which is the best de­fence we have for flood mit­i­ga­tion,” said Al­lie Tulick of YYC Cares, a group urg­ing changes to the bridge de­sign.

“We’re happy the EAB is giv­ing us an opportunity to present our case.”

An email, ob­tained by Post­media, was sent by the EAB Satur­day morn­ing to con­cerned par­ties ahead of the stay’s for­mal an­nounce­ment.

Op­po­nents want an openspan de­sign for the bridge, one they say is a bet­ter op­tion for the en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive area.

“It’s a way more ecofriendly op­tion, and it’s some­thing they’ve done be­fore,” Tulick said, re­fer­ring to the Stoney Trail bridge over the Bow River be­tween Nose Hill Dr. and the road’s cur­rent ter­mi­nus at the Trans-Canada High­way.

Con­struc­tion be­gan ear­lier this year on the $1.4-bil­lion Tsuut’ina Trail pro­ject, the fi­nal link that will fi­nally com­plete the city’s ring road.

Run­ning be­tween Glen­more Tr. and Hwy. 22X, the 31 km di­vided free­way will in­clude 14 in­ter­changes, 49 bridges and three river cross­ings.

The pro­ject be­came a re­al­ity after a 2013 land deal be­tween the Tsuut’ina First Na­tion and the former Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment.

In Satur­day’s email, EAB set­tle­ment of­fi­cer Gil­bert Van Nes said the tem­po­rary stay was is­sued to al­low the board to fully con­sider the ap­peal ap­pli­ca­tion sub­mit­ted ear­lier this sum­mer by res­i­dent Jeffrey Brook­man.

“The is­suance of the stay is based on the board’s view that the fill­ing-in of the wet­lands as au­tho­rized un­der the ap­proval will be ir­repara­ble for all prac­ti­cal pur­poses,” the email reads.

In an emailed state­ment sent to Post­media, a spokesper­son for Trans­port Min­is­ter Brian Ma­son said the provin­cial gov­ern­ment “is com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing this pro­ject meets en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards and we re­spect the process. This is part of the process.”

They also con­firmed an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment on the bridge pro­ject was car­ried out as part of the en­tire south­west

ring road pro­ject.

DaR­REN MakOWIcHUk/PosT­mEdia

Ring road con­struc­tion on Tsuut’ina Na­tion land ear­lier this sum­mer. Of­fi­cials will re­view a bridge over the El­bow River.

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