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July 2024 - Update from the Bow River Reservoir Options Study Team

Phase 2: Feasibility Study 

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Thank you for your continued interest in the Bow River Reservoir Options (BRRO) initiative. As part of our commitment to provide regular updates on the initiative, we would like to share information on the recent engagement activities and our work assessing alternatives to a dam and reservoir. 

Given the need to move in a timely manner to prevent floods and mitigate drought along the Bow River, Environment and Protected Areas will not advance the Morley option any further at this time. The study continues to assess technical feasibility, while carefully considering a variety of social, environmental, cultural, traditional land use, engineering and economic elements for the remaining Relocated Ghost Dam and Glenbow East options. Accordingly, recent engagement efforts focused on these two options. 

The current stage of the initiative is indicated in the graphic below. For more details on the BRRO initiative, including feasibility study updates and engagement opportunities, please visit: https://www.alberta.ca/ bow-river-reservoir-options.aspx

Engagement on the BRRO is designed to build our understanding of what is important to Albertans when considering a potential new reservoir on the Bow River, upstream of Calgary. 

The objectives of the engagement activities during the Phase 1: Conceptual Assessment was to understand who could be affected by the reservoir options, and to gather general input on the three options being studied. As part of the Phase 2: Feasibility Study, engagement focused on asking the key question “What factors should be considered when evaluating the three reservoir options? Environmental? Social? Economic? Other?”  

The almost 2,300 comments received between September 2019 and March 2023 helped make up a developing list of factors that were grouped into four categories for evaluating the options: 

  • Project implementation and performance objectives 

  • Social 

  • Environmental 

  • Economic 

From April 15 to May 13, 2024, Albertans shared input on these categories and their associated factors through completion of an online questionnaire, which included asking them to rank the factors, identifying what was important to them. 

Almost 1,000 people have accessed the spring 2024 virtual information centre to date, which provides descriptions of the categories and factors, along with updates and other information about the feasibility study. 

Questionnaire responses show the top five factors of importance are: 

  • Park/park-type Crown land (social category), 
  • Wildlife (environmental category), 
  • Recreation (social category), 
  • Wetlands (environmental category), and 
  • Historical sites (social category) 

We continue to review the almost 3,000 questionnaires completed by participants, along with hundreds of emails received. So far there are well over 5,000 comments for the study team to analyze and consider. 

What happens next? 

The study team is currently reviewing the spring 2024 engagement results. At the completion of the feasibility study, the final deliverables will include a report summarizing engagement activities and results. All input received, whether through structured engagement activities or emails and other communications, will help us determine which reservoir option, if any, will proceed to Phase 3: Engineering and Regulatory Approval Process 

The Alberta government is looking at alternatives, what does that mean?  

Although the BRRO is exploring a potential new reservoir on the Bow River upstream of Calgary for water management flexibility, much work has gone into assessing if there is something else, an alternative, that could be done that would provide equivalent flood mitigation and drought protection. The Alberta government is preparing a report that synthesizes the assessments of key alternatives, documenting in one place their benefits, risks and other important considerations. This will help inform a decision on whether to proceed with one of the reservoir options to Phase 3: Engineering and Regulatory Approval Process. 

What alternatives are included? 

Many alternatives were assessed by the Bow River Working Group, as described in their May 2017 report, Advice to Government on Water Management in the Bow River Basin. The BRRO was initiated as a result of the Alberta government accepting a recommendation from this report. 

Other alternatives were assessed during the Phase 1: Conceptual Assessment as documented in the final report, identified as part of a jurisdictional review conducted by the BRRO study team in 2023 or recommended to the Alberta government during BRRO engagement. 

How do we define alternatives?  

After reviewing the alternatives, they were grouped into three categories: 

  • Alternatives to: Alternative strategies instead of a new dam and reservoir on the Bow River, upstream of Calgary, which could potentially provide equivalent flood mitigation and drought protection. 
  • Alternative means: A new but different dam and reservoir option on the Bow River, upstream of Calgary, which could potentially provide equivalent flood mitigation and drought protection. 
  • Complementary alternatives: Complementary actions as secondary measures which may work with a dam and reservoir that is providing the primary flood mitigation and drought protection. 

Bow River Reservoir Options Initiative - Timeline (alberta.ca)   

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