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Editorial: SR-1 is a go

SR-1 construction has officially begun in Springbank.

Construction is officially underway on the Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir – a huge infrastructure project that has faced both opposition and support since it was first announced back in 2014. 

Now, the project is facing rising costs. 

Premier Jason Kenney and several of his UCP cabinet ministers celebrated the beginning of construction for the now-$744 million dry dam project during a press conference in Calgary on May 5. During their remarks, the government members repeatedly brought up the 2013 floods in Calgary as the basis for the need for improved flood mitigation infrastructure. 

They're not wrong – the 2013 floods were devastating, resulting in five deaths and $5 billion in damages, including communities in west Rocky View County. A solution to prevent such devastation again is certainly necessary. 

But is SR-1 the answer?

Springbank residents have said no for years, instead arguing in favour of a separate site for a reservoir further upstream, at MacLean Creek. 

Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver and Minister of Transportation Rajan Sawhney both argued at the May 5 presser that SR-1 is "the right" project to improve Alberta's flood mitigation infrastructure. They brought up how it has made its way through three consecutive Alberta governments, regardless of party stripes, as well as both federal and provincial regulators. When we asked about Springbank's opposition to the project, Sawhney highlighted the lack of land expropriation and the voluntary nature of land negotiations during community consultation. 

Still, SR-1 has its naysayers. The Springbank Community Association has voiced concerns over air quality issues and environmental impacts, and we predict SR-1 will continue to face criticism until and after it's built. 

Another of the Springbank Community Association's criticisms has been the project's rising cost. What started as a $432 million project has morphed into a $744 million project, $576 million of which will be paid for by the province. According to government officials, the higher cost is due to various factors, including the increased cost of construction, materials, utility and pipeline relocation over the last five years.

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