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Bighorn hires hydrogeologist to understand groundwater flooding in Exshaw

“The volumes are receding, however, we would like to find out more about the effects of ground water, obviously where it has come from and the effects of mitigation.”

EXSHAW – What caused the groundwater floods in Exshaw?

The MD of Bighorn is working to find the answer and council approved the hiring of a hydrogeologist at its Tuesday (June 9) virtual monthly meeting.

“As we all know the homes and properties in Pigeon Mountain Drive and Mount Mcgillivary Drive are inundated by high volumes of water starting last week,” MD Chief Administrative Officer Rob Ellis said. 

“The volumes are receding, however, we would like to find out more about the effects of groundwater, obviously where it has come from and the effects of mitigation.”

Last week, several homes in the east end of Exshaw were unexpectedly flooded with high groundwater levels. Dozens of Exshaw residents pumped thousands of litres of water out of their basements with some residents estimating up to 50 centimetres of groundwater in their homes.

Many voiced their concerns about the recently completed flood mitigation work nearby on Exshaw Creek as a suspect for the groundwater flooding which Bighorn Reeve Dene Cooper told the Outlook last week was “highly unlikely,” but “not impossible.”

The new hydrogeologist, who Ellis said is independent of the engineers behind the Exshaw Creek design and mitigation work, will be tasked with helping the MD understand what is causing the unusually high groundwater levels in east Exshaw.

The key questions for the hydrogeologist to investigate include:

• What is causing the unusually high groundwater levels in east Exshaw?

• Is the Exshaw Creek flood mitigation structure a cause of the high groundwater levels in east Exshaw?

• What could be done to mitigate the groundwater problem in east Exshaw? 

• What would be the estimated cost of this mitigation?

In an update on the Bighorn website last Friday (June 5), officials noted they engaged with the hydrogeologist consultant prior to approval at the council meeting, due to the time-sensitivity.

The consultant spent last Friday in Exshaw reviewing the groundwater flooding situation. 

Now that council has approved the hiring, the consultant will collect data over the next month and present a high-level report expected in July. 

Administration originally requested $50,000 for the project noting it did not expect the MD to spend the full amount, estimating costs closer to $25,000, but council amended the recommendation by authorizing $25,000 to sole-source the hydrogeologist for the groundwater investigation.

Coun. Paul Ryan requested each council member receive an email with the amendments to administrations recommended report, which included the questions presented to the hydrogeologist and the new price tag.

The councillor also requested the final version of the Exshaw Creek flood mitigation design be added to the MD of Bighorn website as only the draft version was available.

Ellis said administration would get the final design on the official website as soon as possible.

“It is difficult to keep any kind of traction with the truth when there is people running around trying to undo it,” Ryan said during the virtual meeting.

At the meeting, Coun. Ryan also inquired about putting a call out for help from local firefighters to help man the gas-powered water pumps as the residents were “burning out at a high rate.”

Ellis noted some local volunteer firefighters, who also work full-time jobs, had already been giving their time to help the situation, but said administration would still ask if anyone else could help.

“People are burning out at a high rate and a lot have taken time off work to do it … can we not have a couple of people from the fire department ... to fill the gaps. I know it is a liability issue but … I think most of those pumps belong to us anyway,” Ryan asked. 

“I have heard that people are tired and need to go to work,” Ellis said.

“We will put a call out to our firefighters to help, but I want you to know there are already firefighters down there … they are already doing that so I don’t want to burn out our firefighters either.”

Administration was also asked about an emergency contact sheet, to list different supports and resources available to those affected, which Ellis said the MD is working on.

Coun. Lisa Rosvold also inquired about where people could donate financially to those affected. Ellis said administration is looking into it.

Go to mdbighorn.ca for up-to-date information.

– with files from Evan Buhler



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Jenna Dulewich

About the Author: Jenna Dulewich

Jenna Dulewich is a national and provincial award-winning multi-media journalist. Joining the Rocky Mountain Outlook in 2019, she covers Stoney Nakoda, MD of Bighorn, Canmore and court.
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