Gateway Gazette

Alberta takes a natural approach to flood and drought mitigation

New programs focus on improving watershed health to protect Alberta communities and flood-affected fish habitat.

Healthy watersheds are a key component of Alberta’s flood-resilient future
Healthy watersheds are a key component of Alberta’s flood-resilient future

The Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program (WRRP) and the Southern Alberta Fisheries Enhancement and Sustainability (FISHES) Program will provide a combined $31 million over three years for restoration and enhancement projects in flood and drought-prone areas.

“Leveraging the land’s natural defences will help minimize the impacts of flood and drought on our communities and our environment. These programs will provide Albertans with effective, natural and sustainable solutions that will ensure healthy watersheds and fish populations.”

~ Robin Campbell, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development

Unlike traditional flood mitigation projects, which use large-scale construction or engineered structures such as dykes or berms, the WRRP will improve watershed function through the creation and enhancement of natural systems, as well as the conservation and restoration of healthy wetlands and riparian areas. Funding of $21 million for this program is allocated from the $600 million pledged for flood mitigation efforts announced at Alberta’s Watershed Management Symposium held in April.

Funding under the WRRP grant program will be available to non-governmental organizations, stewardship groups and other not-for-profit organizations, as well as municipalities, First Nations and local authorities.

The FISHES Program will restore disturbed habitats and mitigate the impacts to fish resulting from flood recovery work.

Fish habitat improvements include restoring spawning or over-wintering habitat, rebuilding river banks and re-vegetation, and development of new in-stream habitat structures. There will be a special focus on habitat “hot spots” based on the presence of Species at Risk or Species or Concern.

Of the $10 million allotted to the FISHES program, $5 million was made available through the Disaster Recovery Program. The remaining $5 million was allocated under the Alberta government’s 2013 South Alberta Flood Initiative. The FISHES program will be implemented in consultation with experts in fish habitat restoration.

“The role of wetlands in flood and drought management is well documented globally and is now being formally recognized in Alberta. Ducks Unlimited Canada applauds the Government of Alberta for ensuring wetland conservation and restoration are key elements of its water management strategy and is delighted that our organization will play a primary role in delivering program outcomes.”

~ Perry McCormick, Manager of Provincial Operations, Alberta, Ducks Unlimited Canada

“Trout Unlimited Canada believes that properly functioning watersheds, including streams, rivers, riparian areas, floodplains and wetlands, are our best defense against flooding. Cold, clean water is good for fish and good for the health of Albertans. We look forward to working with Minister Campbell on both of these innovative new programs.”

~ Jeff Surtees, Chief Executive Officer, Trout Unlimited Canada

“Riparian areas and wetlands are integral components of healthy, functioning watersheds, including helping naturally store and clean our water. Cows and Fish is very pleased to see the Government of Alberta’s commitment help address long-term resiliency to both drought and flood by working with landowners on stewardship of these areas.”

~ Norine Ambrose, Executive Director, Cows and Fish

Priority projects funded through each program will begin in the fall. All work should be complete by spring 2017.

Under the Building Alberta Plan, our government is investing in families and communities, living within our means, and opening new markets for Alberta’s resources to ensure we’re able to fund the services Albertans told us matter most to them. We will continue to deliver the responsible change Albertans voted for.

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