by Ann Sullivan
Not every golf course close to a major city can boast elk, bears, moose, bobcats and coyotes as regular visitors. The Glencoe Golf and Country Club (GGCC), situated just west of Calgary, certainly can. Canada’s biggest golf course, the Glencoe is a 45-hole course built into the forest and the floodplain adjacent to the Elbow River. It was the 12th golf course in Alberta to be certified by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program (ACSP) for Golf, which might account, at least in part, for its abundance of wildlife.
Being certified with Audubon International means the Glencoe must meet a list of criteria in six key areas every year, including environmental planning, water conservation and chemical use reduction and safety. (See sidebar below for more information about the ASCP for Golf certification program.) These criteria have led the Glencoe to adopt responsible environmental practices year round, which is especially good news for the Elbow River, a major source of drinking water for Calgarians.
by Ann Sullivan
In 2014, one year after the largest flood since 1897, the Government of Alberta under leader Jim Prentice decided to move forward with the Springbank Off-stream Reservoir Project (SR1) as a way to mitigate future flooding. When complete, the dry reservoir, in conjunction with the Glenmore Reservoir, would be able to handle the same volume of water as in the flood of 2013.
The project is now seeking regulatory approval from the provincial Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) and the federal Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAA), formerly called the Canadian Environmental Approval Agency (CEAA). The length of this process and its outcome are both unknown at present. Following approval, the Province will need to acquire land for the project, only 20 percent of which has been acquired so far. Remaining landowners, some of whom strongly oppose SR1, could require expropriation.
“The regulatory process is unpredictable,” Matthew Hebert, executive director, transportation policy with Alberta Transportation, noted in a letter to the ERWP, “and setting definitive timelines is challenging as a result.” Once the project receives final approval, the project will take an estimated three years to construct.
by Ann Sullivan
In early November 2019, more than 11,000 scientists from around the world declared that the Earth is in the midst of a climate crisis. The scientists were not the first to make the statement. In June of this year, Canadian politicians also passed a motion to declare a climate emergency, noting that Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet.
David Sauchyn, director of the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative (PARC) at the University of Regina, is perhaps more aware than most of the effects of climate change on our country and planet. Sauchyn, a professor of geography and environmental studies, has been studying climate change for 40 years. Starting in the 1990s, he became aware that there was “a whole social and political element” to climate change. “It’s really hard these days to separate the science and the reaction people have to it,” he said.
By Ann Sullivan
On a beautiful day in the southern Alberta foothills, you can find the trails in West Bragg Creek by following a steady stream of vehicles to the trailhead. Some people make their way by foot or bike via the newly built Great Trail, which parallels the West Bragg Creek Road and Range Road 54. Whichever way you choose to access the area, you’ll find a vast network of multi-use, non-motorized trails less than an hour from Calgary.
These days, a paved road connects the hamlet of Bragg Creek to the trailhead parking lot about 10 kilometres away. But the West Bragg Creek trails, in the heart of the Elbow River watershed, were not always so well known or well used. What began as a loose network of horse and cart trails, seismic cut-lines, mining roads and unofficial recreational trails has developed in the past 10 years into 152 kilometres of all-season trails.
The Elbow River may be the only river in the world whose major end use is drinking water. And although it supplies water to about half the population of Calgary and one in six Albertans, it’s not a big river, just one-tenth the size of the Bow. Cathy Ryan, a professor in the Department of Geoscience at the University of Calgary, makes these points to illustrate how important it is to protect the Elbow and its aquifer. Since the aquifer is directly hydraulically connected to the river, Ryan said, any river activities can directly affect water quality. Ryan is concerned that the Elbow is not being adequately protected because it’s “a casualty to the fact that people want to live close to rivers.”
Much of the flow in the Elbow River moves through the aquifer to the river, either after percolating down through the aquifer itself or through rocks, cracks and soil before flowing into the aquifer and then the open-stream river. Surface water, which comes directly from rain and snowmelt, makes up a much smaller percentage of water in the Elbow.