Thousands spent on Banff flood prep

By Cathy Ellis - Banff

The Town of Banff was forced to shell out thousands and thousands of dollars in preparation for a flood last month, along with subsequent cleanup of damaged trails along the Bow River.

The Town estimates total costs will end up being around $46,000, most of which is to be spent on repairing trails damaged when the swollen waters of the river broke the banks.

Given the flood watch warning issued by Alberta Environment, an estimated $18,000 was spent on actual preparation work, such as buying concrete blocks and fabric to build two berms on the south and north side of the river.

"Reaction after the fact is absolutely useless. We needed to be proactive," said Banff Mayor John Stutz. "We were notified by Alberta Environment about the potential dangers and we responded appropriately. We would do the same again under the same circumstances."

Banff was prepared for a worst-case scenario after Alberta Environment issued a flood watch warning for low-lying areas along the Bow River in town on June 4, particularly given forecasts for high rainfall following an unseasonably high warm spell.

The above-average snow pack dumped in the mountains over the winter, coupled with unseasonably high temperatures, created the massive spring runoff in the Bow River.

The flow of the river through Banff peaked at about 304 cubic metres per second on June 7.

This is the highest flow at Banff since 1995, when it peaked at 274 cubic metres per second. The last time the flow in Banff exceeded 275 cubic metres per second was in 1986, when the peak was 317 cubic metres per second.

The Town was quick to respond, building concrete berms reinforced with sandbags along Birch Avenue on the south side of the river and along Bow Avenue on the north side of the river.

In the end, Banff escaped relatively unscathed.

The high water damaged some trails and retaining walls. It also forced the closure of Banff Recreation Grounds and flooded the new bike park.

"I would say it's much better to be prepared," said Mike Dobbin, the Town of Banff's operations manager.

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