Monday, July 22, 2019

Alberta Environmental Appeal Board temporarily halts work on controversial southwest ring road bridge

Alberta Environmental Appeal Board

Less than 24 hours after its approval, construction of a contentious ring road overpass has been put on hold.

The eleventh-hour stay issued Saturday by Alberta’s Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) puts the brakes on the project’s Elbow River bridge — one that opponents say will irreparably damage adjacent wetlands and pose significant impacts downstream.

It’s a cautious victory for those opposed to the river crossing’s current design — a nearly kilometre-long earthen berm spanning the width of the valley, with the river diverted through a bridged 150-metre gap.

Aside from the impact to local wildlife, critics fear such a crossing would dangerously constrict the river — increasing the flood risk and degrading downstream water quality.

“Our biggest concern is that they’re filling in 24 wetlands, which is the best defence we have for flood mitigation,” said Allie Tulick of YYC Cares, a group urging changes to the bridge design.

“We’re happy the EAB is giving us an opportunity to present our case.”

An email, obtained by Postmedia, was sent by the EAB Saturday morning to concerned parties ahead of the stay’s formal announcement.

Opponents want an open-span design for the bridge, one they say is a better option for the environmentally sensitive area.

“It’s a way more eco-friendly option, and it’s something they’ve done before,” Tulick said, referring to the Stoney Trail bridge over the Bow River between Nose Hill Dr. and the road’s current terminus at the Trans-Canada Highway.

Construction began earlier this year on the $1.4-billion Tsuut’ina Trail project, the final link that will finally complete the city’s ring road.

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