Stormwater management a growing issue for southern Alberta

By Miriam Ostermann, Associate Editor

Town of Strathmore administration presented the newly formed town council with homework last week, to familiarize themselves with the Cooperative Stormwater Management Initiative (CSMI) agreement – which seeks to deal with stormwater in Strathmore’s new annexed lands and has a $6 million price-tag attached – all before the agreement is brought back to the Nov. 15 meeting for a resolution.
Strathmore, along with numerous other southern Alberta communities, is noticing the increasing issue of stormwater management. The town already has a discharge agreement with Western Irrigation District (WID) for the original pre-annexation lands, but the contract doesn’t extend to lands recently annexed.
Therefore, CSMI and six project partners, along with various project consultants, began work in 2012. The partners include WID and the municipalities of the City of Calgary, the City of Chestermere, Rocky View County, Strathmore and Wheatland County. The project also sought the expertise of WaterSMART Solutions Ltd. and MPE Engineering as well as project observers, the Calgary Regional Partnership and Alberta Environment and Parks.
The aim of the project is for the development of a practical stormwater management system that would allow for regional growth and development.
By working with the collaboration, the town is being presented with various stormwater drainage options to make it easier and lucrative for developers to continue investing in Strathmore, whereas before the water had to be evaporated.
Two years ago, the partnership created a draft agreement that was circulated and edited by the collaborating municipalities this summer, providing the town with the ability to discharge stormwater from lands annexed since the last discharge agreement, as well as to add lands being developed in the future.
Strathmore would need to dole out $6 million over the next two decades, based on the current CSMI system, with funds consisting of mainly off-site levies and grant funding.
While Strathmore is under no obligation to make a decision by Nov. 15, time is of the essence for council to sign the final agreement with its partners to then enter into a year of negotiations and decision-making regarding details and finances.
“When you get into the details of it, it basically has a caveat in there that we have two other agreements that we have to enter into. And if we don’t enter into those agreements, this agreement dies; but if we enter into this agreement, it opens up that grant funding,” said Mark Ruoult, Town of Strathmore’s director of infrastructure and development services. “I guess at the end of the day this obligates the town to enter into negotiations for a year. It doesn’t actually obligate us to enter into the $6 million or any of that. All it (means) is that we must enter into the agreement and make a decision within that year.”
The agreement is already approved by the City of Chestermere, Rocky View County and Wheatland County, and was presented to the WID board on Nov. 1. The City of Calgary will be reviewing the document in January of next year.
Although town administration brought the issue back to the Committee of the Whole meeting on Nov. 8, after the Strathmore Times went to print, councillors inquired about the timeline of when the stormwater procedures would be in place, the funding, possible partnerships with First Nations and the recycling of the water to recoup costs.
Council was presented with the final draft of the agreement, the CSMI Governance Evaluation Results and Recommendation, and Denton’s Speaking Points. Council accepted the report as information before offering a resolution at the regular council meeting on Nov. 15.