By Trevor Busch
The Town of Taber has signed on to financially support the Southern Regional Stormwater Committee’s $47-million Horsefly Spillway project.
In a follow-up to the attendance of the Southern Regional Stormwater Committee (SRSC) delegation at the Sept. 28 council meeting, correspondence was received from Reeve Merrill Harris, co-chair of the SRSC, related to the committee’s request for a confirmation of the Town’s funding participation by Nov. 13.
“The Town of Taber will benefit from this regional stormwater enhancement,” stated administration in the background to the request at council’s Oct. 26 meeting. “Currently stormwater from the Town of Taber flows into Taber Reservoir and then is released based on operation efforts by the Taber Irrigation District. During periods of significant storm flows, Taber Reservoir does not have the volume, release capacity or downstream drainage infrastructure necessary to get this storm water from Taber Reservoir to the Oldman River safely and without damage to property and public infrastructure. This means during high flow periods, the water inundating Taber Reservoir would back up into the future east industrial storm wetland (and perhaps further back into Taber storm water infrastructure (ditches). Administration is recommending participating in this project with the other stakeholder municipalities to ensure that stormwater from the Town of Taber has the ability to reach the Oldman River without damage to property during periods of significant flows.”
The SRSC was requesting the municipality consider funding 10 per cent of the $5,919,391 contribution to the Horsefly Spillway project for a total of $592,607, with the MD of Taber already committed to $888,910.
“We have an issue of a development permit in town that is being somewhat held up by TID due to lack of storm mitigation and attenuation on the east side, and we have the issue of resolving that with our East Industrial Storm Pond,” said CAO Cory Armfelt. “But this matter is somewhat linked, and this funding is not without consideration to that other project.”
SRSC argues the project will protect municipal and irrigation district infrastructure, private property, prevent economic losses due to flooding, and enable increased agricultural production and future development. Employing a bathtub analogy to the town’s stormwater management, Armfelt explained how contributing to the project would be to the town’s benefit.
“The agreement and the conversation we had with TID earlier today indicated that if council was to support this funding, what that would allow is for there to be a bigger outlet to that bathtub. So the bathtub gets smaller because the outlet gets bigger. And that is the advantage to the Town of Taber…the East Industrial Storm would not have to increase in size so significantly, because the outlet to that bathtub was increased in size due to our participation in this endeavour.”
Coun. Joe Strojwas asked if participation might allow the town to reduce and divert funds from an upcoming $7 million wetlands project.
“We’d probably see some savings in our $7 million storm pond by agreeing to contribute to this funding here,” said Armfelt. “So while it’s not a slam dunk, our design can get less sophisticated if we participate in this model, because the onus then is not all coming back on the Town of Taber, because we’re participating with TID in this other drainage plan. So we should see some savings — whether we do or not — but we should see some savings.” Coun. Garth Bekkering was satisfied by the explanation from administration, and welcomed any resolution of restrictions on town development.
“It seemed to me when the presentation was made by the committee some time ago, I was very lukewarm to the idea that we would contribute money to essentially — in my view — largely their problem. When I received the RFD on Thursday, I read it and thought how can we tie this into the TID’s unreasonable request regarding attenuation of our development practices in the Town of Taber. I’m so happy to hear that administration took the bull by the horns and did it. I’m ready to support this.”
SRSC requested a 10 per cent cost share for the Town of Taber over four years: 2020/21 ($20,693), 2021/22 ($15,219), 2022/23 ($328,944), and 2023/24 ($277,751), for a total of $592,607.
Strojwas remained concerned about the potential ongoing impact on the town’s budgets.
“We’re looking for a commitment here of $600,000. We’re already struggling to balance our books. So if we commit to this $600,000, that’s going to impact what we do over the next four years significantly. If we could save some money on the wetland project…to go into this project, but for the $600,000 over the next four years, that’s certainly going to impact our budgets for the next four years.”
Again referencing a potential development opportunity but providing no details, Armfelt appeared to push for council adoption.
“I’ll remind council that there is an $800,000 development permit that is — while it’s maybe not right, it is politics — and there is a fairly significant economic development opportunity that is hanging in the balance.”
Bekkering wanted assurances that a town funding commitment would eliminate restrictions on development.
“If this motion passes, will they leave us alone — the TID — regarding development?”
“If this motion passes,” replied Armfelt, “The Town of Taber will be well on its way to absolutely looking after all its responsibilities with regard to stormwater.”
Following discussion, council voted 6-1 to contribute $592,607 from the capital budget to support Phase 1 of the Southern Alberta Regional Stormwater Horsefly Spillway Project. Strojwas opposed the motion.
Other projects being considered by the SRSC for the future include a Chin Reservoir Expansion ($39,000,000), Sherburne Spillway and Reservoir Expansion ($13,000,000), Drain Inlet Pumping Stations – 20 Sites ($2,000,000), Sauder Reservoir New Spillway ($13,000,000), Murray Reservoir Expansion ($25,000,000), and the Paradise Creek Dry Dam ($13,000,000).