By COLLIN GALLANT on March 18, 2023.
Shovels ceremonially kicked off work on the Horsefly Spillway near Taber on Friday, the first major project of a regional flood mitigation partnership that includes the City of Medicine Hat, though not as an active funding partner yet.
And that comes as the group, which includes the town and municipal district of Taber, as well as Cypress and Forty Mile counties and the St. Mary’s Irrigation District, has rearranged grants given three years ago to meet an escalating budget.
In 2019, city council voted to hold back potential contributions to Horsefly, instead designating that any local money approved for flood mitigation would be used on its own projects that mostly focus on the South Saskatchewan River.
That was affirmed last month when Hat council members voted to sign a joint letter asking the province to cover shortfalls in the Horsefly construction budget.
“Currently we’re providing support in principle only,” said Coun. Alison Van Dyke, who sits on the regional drainage committee formed by the regional municipalities.
“Part of that is because of our own flood mitigation (needs). The Harlow II berm was the last of the berms to be built along the river, but there is still assessment and mitigation that may need to be done along Seven Persons Creek.”
Five years ago, the drainage committee approved a project list spanning the length of the river basin along Highway 3. Proposed budgets include a funding model with a sliding scale of contributions based on each member’s municipalities benefit.
In essence, the closer a project is to a municipality, the higher the share of the cost.
The MD of Taber is the lead municipality on the Horsefly project, and in December accepted a $23.3-million bid from Lethbridge’s deGraaf Construction on the first phase. Total costs have risen $5 million over original estimates.
MD of Taber chief administrative officer Arlos Crofts says Alberta Community Resiliency Grants, set aside in 2019 and allotted to future Horsefly phases, will be used now to cover the difference.
Also in the budget is a federal “Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program” award of $8.9 million, and a combined $6.1-million contribution from the municipal partnership.
Crofts also said it is gratifying to get work underway.
“It’s been quite an undertaking, considering the level of collaboration that’s taken place – federal, provincial, a group of municipalities and an irrigation district,” he said.
The spillway will provide a direct outlet from Taber Lake to the Oldman River, a route to avert overland flooding that hit the town in 2013 and more recently in 2018.
Phase 2 would link Taber Lake to Horsefly Reservoir, and phase 3 would extend the network to the SMRID main canal providing overflow control on the system that terminates in the Seven Persons Creek.
Also on the drainage committee’s unscheduled project list are upgrades at Murray Lake and Sauder (Rattlesnake) Reservoir.