Calgary Herald

Donor family dismayed at prospect Glenbow Ranch park faces flood risk


The philanthro­pist family whose land donation birthed the current Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park said they'd have cancelled the donation if they knew the tract could be submerged to prevent downstream flooding.

Speaking through a representa­tive, the Harvie family said they're deeply troubled by the possibilit­y a third of the 3,250 acres they provided to establish the park that opened in 2011 could be underwater if the so-called Glenbow East dam option is adopted.

It's among three choices the provincial government is weighing to prevent a repeat of the 2013 overflow of the Bow River that inundated parts of downtown Calgary and other areas of the city.

“When the park was created, it was envisioned the lands would be protected in perpetuity,” said Cam Crawford, who speaks for the donors and also the Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation board.

“If we ever thought this land would be put at risk, we would have gone to a nature conservato­ry ... we are very concerned with the (possible) impact of the Glenbow East dam.”

Crawford said the Harvies understand the province is confronted with a tough choice in finding a solution to protect Calgary and also provide water storage to mitigate droughts.

“It's a very difficult situation with many moving parts,” he said.

But he pointed to the two other options — one a reservoir between Morley and Seebe and another that would relocate the Ghost Dam and increase the water capacity of the lake there.

Crawford said the foundation favours the Ghost Lake alternativ­e because it would be less disruptive to parks like Glenbow Ranch and Calgary's Haskayne Legacy Park which would also be flooded by a Glenbow East dam built there.

It would also protect Cochrane while providing better water storage, he said.

His foundation, he said, wants to be proactive in finding a way to protect Albertans while fulfilling the commitment made to the Harvie family and the public.

“What's in the best interest of Alberta is managing its water resources in the best way,” said Crawford.

“We don't want to get to the point of broken promises — we want to be part of the solution.”

In 1934, Glenbow Museum founder Eric Harvie purchased the cattle grazing land that features grasslands, deep coulees, aspen forests, Bow River bank and sweeping mountain vistas that would become Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park.

They sold it to the provincial government in 2006 for roughly half its market value.

Lois Haskayne, who along with husband Richard donated much of the land and several million dollars to develop Haskayne Legacy Park on Calgary's western edge, has expressed anger at the land being potentiall­y affected.

She also said they would never have made their donations to the city if they knew it could be sacrificed to flood mitigation.

“We certainly wouldn't have put all of this money into it if we knew it'd be flooded,” she told Postmedia.

In a 2020 assessment, the estimated cost for Glenbow East would be $992 million, with Ghost Dam and Morley options at $917 million and $922 million. But the Morley price tag doesn't include land swaps and other possible compensati­on. While the report says all possibilit­ies would incur some environmen­tal effects, it concludes those affected by Glenbow East would be most pronounced.

“No environmen­tal differenti­ators were identified along the entire study corridor except for impacts on the existing Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, in the Glenbow reach of the river,” it states.

At least 14 homes, it said, would be inundated by the dam-created reservoir, while “wildlife corridors on both sides of the river would be impacted.”

But the report also says the downstream effectiven­ess of Glenbow East would be “very good” compared to “good” for the Ghost Dam and “fair” for Morley.

Officials said Saturday the province has entered the next stage of the feedback process, which includes a hydrologic­al study and selecting the location for a reservoir. The province says it'll announce a decision on the Bow River options early next year and insists it favours none.

Due to public outcry, the province has extended a feedback period on the dam-reservoir options from an initial deadline of May 6 to May 13.

The UCP government says there's been considerab­le public consultati­on over the flood mitigation strategy that's included in-person meetings, webinars, online feedback portals over the course of three years.

 ?? STEVEN WILHELM ?? The Harvie family says they would have cancelled the land donation that created Glenbow Ranch park if they were aware of dam plan.
STEVEN WILHELM The Harvie family says they would have cancelled the land donation that created Glenbow Ranch park if they were aware of dam plan.

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