After decades of negotiation, the Southwest Calgary Ring Road (SWCRR) is now under construction. Discussion about a ring road around the city began in the 1970s, when the population of Calgary was about 325,000. By 2013 the city’s population had multiplied four times to more than 1.3 million people. And while talks continued about the southwest portion of the road, a 70-kilometre stretch of ring road was completed northwest, northeast and southeast of the city.
In November 2013, the Government of Alberta and the Tsuut’ina Nation signed a land transfer agreement that would allow the SWCRR to be built. This piece of the city’s 100-kilomtre-plus ring road will run from Highway 8 (near Elbow Springs Golf Course) to McLeod Trail SE. The 31-kilometre stretch of six- and eight-lane divided highway will include 47 bridges – including crossings over the Elbow River and Fish Creek – and 14 interchanges. (For more information on the SWCRR, visit http://www.swcrrproject.com/.
Construction partnership Kiewit Graham Ledcor (KGL Constructors) is charged with designing and building the southwest ring road. As part of the project, KGL will work with Golder Associates to realign a 1.4-kilometre stretch of the Elbow River in the Transportation Utility Corridor west of 37 Street SW.
Written by Ann Sullivan
When Bob McAlpine began compiling information about the Elbow River watershed, he was surprised by what he found – and also by what he didn’t find. In pulling together a variety of reports and studies, McAlpine found no record of sampling or any hydrological evaluation of Elbow Lake, the source of the Elbow River in Kananaskis Country. “It’s probably the most important part of the whole river,” said McAlpine, a professional biologist and water quality specialist.
Bob McAlpine (second from right) speaks at Cobble Flats along the Elbow River during the ERWP’s annual general meeting in June 2016. Photo by Mike Murray
“I was shocked, actually, that the source of all our drinking water wasn’t being studied,” he said, although he added that it’s possible the information he believes missing is out there, just not currently available to the public.
How did riparian areas in some of Alberta’s critical headwaters––including the Elbow River––fare after the flood of 2013? That’s one of the questions Michael Wagner and his field crew hope to answer with the East Slopes Riparian Assessment Project. Wagner, a forest hydrologist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, is field lead and head of logistics and supervision for the two-year project. He’s currently compiling and sorting through data from both last year’s field crews and crews working in Alberta’s East Slopes this season.
Above: Crew samples a stream as part of the East Slopes Riparian Assessment Project.
The Elbow River Watershed Partnership is pleased to announce we have received a grant from the Government of Alberta via the Watershed Restoration and Resiliency Program.
by C. Lacombe
The many people that drink Elbow River water may be making important decisions by default and Professor Dr. Cathryn Ryan would prefer to see that change to informed decision making.
Ryan and her students have studied the Elbow River, its water and its watershed for years. Students tested well water at Bragg Creek kitchen taps, checked Elbow River invertebrates, tested river water quality and studied hydro geology upstream of the Glenmore Reservoir.
According to Ryan, Al Sosiak, a recently retired limnolgist Alberta Environment, said for many years that the Elbow is the only river in the world that he's aware of whose major end use is drinking water.
The Elbow River is small, less than one tenth the size of the Bow River, but supplies 40 – 45% of Calgary's drinking water. Sosiak first showed water quality degradation in the Elbow River close to Calgary in 1999. Sosiak and Dixon (from The City of Calgary) checked water quality again in 2005 and Ryan studied it with her students in 2016 to find that the degradation continues – mainly in the reaches closest to the Glenmore reservoir.
Ryan says she believes that water quality degradation is related to development on the river-connected alluvial aquifer, a thin ribbon of land next to the river and not even continuous on both sides. She points out that a good portion of the Elbow River headwaters are in Kananaskis Country. The eastern slopes experience some stress from forestry and recreation, but it is the land in and just west of Calgary where urban development has a significant effect.