Opposition from Bowness residents derails city’s plan to build flood protection barrier

A city plan to build a flood protection barrier in Bowness is on hold after opposition from some homeowners in the northwest community.

The head of the Bowness Responsible Flood Mitigation Society, Jean Woeller, says residents oppose the barrier because it will do nothing to stop groundwater flooding.

“What they’re proposing in terms of a community barrier will give us dry lawns and flooded basements because of the issue of water seeping into our basements as the river rises,” Woeller said. 

Coun. Ward Sutherland said without cooperation from 22 property owners, the city would have to expropriate land — and the added cost would exceed the $30 million budget for the project.

Sutherland said he’s disappointed that Bowness will be left vulnerable to a flood.

“I’m obviously very concerned that first of all, we don’t have some type of flood in the near future where … the damage could have been prevented,” Sutherland said.

The city’s plan includes a pumping system in the community that would help prevent groundwater flooding. The berm would be one measure of protection, supplemented by upstream measures to control river flow.

“Unfortunately, we have 22 of 74 riverfront homeowners who do not want to participate in the program, and because of that we are making no decision right now,” Sutherland said. “I am very disappointed that this is going to affect the safety, flood wise, of 11,500 Bownesians, that we are not proceeding.”

Woeller said the community group has been working with the province up to this point and would like to bring the city and province together on the project.

The project has been delayed partly to allow for the province to complete a feasibility study, which Woeller said is expected to take at least three years and will allow the group to continue pressing for a better project.

“It allows us more time and it allows us to try to influence the city to work with the province, engage with the province to actively identify, design and construct a solution that’s actually going to protect the community of Bowness,” Woeller said. 

“What the city has been proposing in terms of flood barriers leaves us actually at great risk of future flooding.”

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