Cougar Creek will see more than $25 million in improvements

Transformed from a picturesque mountain town, into a disaster zone, then a construction site, the town of Canmore is nearly back to its old self.

As a result of last year’s floods, 130,000 square metres of creek bed and riverbank were destroyed – along with several homes – as water swept rocks, trees and other debris downstream. When the waters finally subsided, damages were estimated at $50 million.

Today, the town has largely recovered. Thanks to $39 million in investment from the province, 15 major projects in and around Canmore – including extensive erosion protection – short-term improvements have largely been completed.

With the anniversary of last year’s events drawing near and the spring melt well underway, Canmore engineering manager Andy Esarte said the town is prepared for almost anything Mother Nature can throw its way.

“We’ve accomplished the mitigation work that we wanted to do for the short-term. We’re confident that mitigation will hold up to a moderate-sized event,” he said. “If we saw something the size and scale of 2013 happen again, we know that the mitigation would certainly help, but may not provide complete protection. So we’ve been working on some detailed hazard and risk assessments for each of our mountain creeks that will ultimately lead to some longer-term mitigation to further reduce hazard and risk.”

Included among the list of short-term improvements is a massive steel net designed to stop debris from being swept downstream. The net, which stretches 40 metres wide and six metres high, is the same sort used to thwart submarines during the Second World War.

However, the net is only capable of trapping around 20 per cent of the debris seen last June. Helping to provide further protection is a layer of concrete mats that now line the banks of Cougar Creek. Living through the devastating floods and seeing the progress of the mitigation efforts has brought the town together, said Canmore resident Brad Petty

“Structurally yes, the town has returned to normal. But the sense of community has changed,” he said. “I feel that the town’s spirit has grown stronger and there is a larger sense of perseverance.”

In the long-term, the creek will see two more “debris retention sites” along with culvert replacements and reinforcement of its banks.

In nearby Lac Des Arc, nine badly damaged lots were purchased for the creation of a natural buffer to protect the community.

Stone Creek and Three Sisters Creek, which also experienced severe flooding, will both see berms constructed and banks reinforced.