CANMORE – On June 20, 2013 residents along Cougar Creek were awoken in the early morning hours by police and firefighters evacuating them as the heavy rains filled the creek behind their homes, placing them at risk.
Over three days, crews battled the raging flood waters, filled with debris that cut into the embankments, cut through the Trans-Canada Highway and nearly washed away the CP Rail tracks.
Seven years later, the Town of Canmore is ready to begin construction of a $48 million debris retention structure up stream in the canyon.
Project manager Félix Camiré told council Tuesday (June 16) that since March, the municipality has received almost all of the required approvals and agreements it needs from the provincial government to begin construction.
"We have received basically the environmental impact assessment and the Natural Resources Conservation Board process has been concluded now with the Order in Council signature," Camiré said. "The Alberta Parks disposition required to operate, maintain and construct the structure is in place and we are waiting for a signed copy of that.
"The Government of Alberta has determined the consultation efforts with Treaty 7 nations was adequate and that was part of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process.
"We are expecting the Water Act approval in the next few days based on our most recent discussions with Alberta Environment and Parks. With all those together, we are basically good to go with construction starting [in July]."
While the overall price tag on the project is $48 million, the tender awarded to Calgary-based Flatiron Constructors Canada Ltd. for $32.8 million. The work done up until now to prepare the site and come up with the design for the debris retention structure, as well hiring an independent environmental consultant Ridge Environmental, makes up the remainder of the budget.
"Due to the scale and nature of the project, a third party environmental consultant was required to minimize the environmental impact during construction and ensure construction is done in compliance with all regulation and also with the commitments we made during the EIA process," Camiré said.
While the general contractor is Calgary based, he said a number of sub-contractors are local. Flatiron has experience with large civil projects in Alberta and the Rockies like the Red Deer interchange, the bridge in the Kicking Horse Canyon near Golden, upgrades to Ruskin Dam near Mission B.C., and are currently finishing work on the improvements to the Glenmore Dam in Calgary.
Timelines for the project include a two to three month break in construction this winter, with work expected to be complete be the end of 2021, with some landscaping and reclamation work in 2022.
Recreational users of the area can expect the two trails along the creek to remain open, with some closures depending on the nature of the work being done in the canyon. However, access up the canyon will be restricted.
"Cougar Creek Canyon itself will be closed during construction," Camiré said. "This is to ensure public safety, construction worker safety and also to increase efficiency of the project."
Most work will occur Monday to Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., however there may be special permits granted if specific aspects of the work being done goes beyond those timelines. Construction traffic will travel Elk Run Boulevard, turn right at the skating rink and travel to the site along the bottom of the creek.
Camiré said there will also be blasting activities, especially at the beginning of construction.
Mayor John Borrowman asked that blasting work be done in a way that does not take residents by surprise every time explosives are used.
Camiré said the Town is working with the contractor to develop a standard schedule for blasting activities. The goal, he said, is to have a well-communicated plan for how that will be done so residents, and their dogs, are prepared for the noise impacts, which would be similar to avalanche control work on the East End of Rundle.
"We will be sharing with the public what those plans are and we have asked the contractor to keep it to a standard as much as possible," he said.
The mayor welcomed the news that the project would break ground soon, given that seven years has passed since the flood and council at the time approved this project in July 2013 as well.
"It has been a long time coming to get this report and I am really happy we have got to this point," Borrowman said.
The budget includes $29 million for Alberta Environment and Parks, $1.37 from Alberta Transportation, $14.5 million for the government of Canada's New Building Canada Fund and $4 million from the Town of Canmore.
The design features a 34-metre high embankment with a 20-metre wide spillway on the east abutment. There is a permanent access road up and over the structure and a ground-level outlet where water will flow through.
Those wishing to be kept up-to-date on the project can go to canmore.ca/cougarcreek, email email@example.com, or sign up for e-newsletters.