By Heather Cameron
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The proposed Eyremore Dam Project is currently in its infant stages.
“Several weeks ago, after I attended a Council meeting at the M.D. and basically pitched the project to them seeking their support, there’s been absolutely nothing accomplished on the project since then,” Richard Phillips, General Manager for the Bow River Irrigation District, said. “It’s really in its infant stages.”
The project would involve constructing a new onstream dam on the Bow River, roughly 43 kilometres downstream of the Bassano Dam, east of Lake Newell and Brooks, which would create a new reservoir in the region. Advocates say the project would provide a better water supply for users up and downstream of the dam, provide more supply to the Eastern Irrigation District, and help bolster downstream flow on the Bow River.
Phillips says that although the Alberta government has stated that they are going to spend $5 million to study the feasibility of the Eyremore Dam, they still haven’t selected a consultant to do the study.
“The government is in the process of trying to figure out what they will require the consultant to do so they can then select a consultant to begin the study,” Phillips said. “This is one of those big projects that just moves along at a snail’s pace. They’re still just trying to figure out how to engage somebody to actually begin the study.”
Phillips emphasized that the Eyremore Dam feasibility study is a big project, so the Alberta Government has to get it right in terms of framing the work they want done to the people who will be actually working on this first stage of the work and that does take time, as they really need it done properly so they can then send it out to folks who would be interested in doing the work.
“And that’s just for that feasibility study,” Phillips said. “And then a project like this takes years and years to get from this stage to actual construction. So that’s the unfortunate reality.”
Phillips says that the Eyremore Dam was proposed to manage water better.
“One of the real weaknesses in water management in southern Alberta right now is that there is no provincially owned and controlled storage on the Bow River,” Phillips said. “We have the Old Man Dam on the Old Man River that’s provincial storage. We have the St. Mary and Waterton Dams and those two rivers up on the Red Deer. We’ve got the Dixon Dam all owned by the province, controlled by the province and the Bow. There is no provincially owned storage. So we need that multi-purpose storage owned by the province. Now, of course, Waterton the same area, not multi-purpose there for irrigation, but Old Man and Dixon multi-purpose storage and on the Bow; that’s what’s missing. So we don’t really have the ability to manage the Bow River effectively for all concerns. So this project will solve that or you know, it meets that need.”
Phillips says that the government’s feasibility study is an important first step in moving a project like the Eyremore Dam forward, as it’s an exciting project. The government, Phillips says, have also committed to funding the feasibility study and he looks forward to that study getting underway because it will more than likely be a two-year process to do that study.
“It’s going to provide the benefit of having better management of water on the Bow River, which then also benefits the rest of the South Saskatchewan River basin, including the Oldman and the South Saskatchewan mainstream,” Phillips said. “So it helps everybody who’s using water in that basin and either directly or indirectly; it helps irrigation districts. It will have a big direct benefit to the City of Medicine Hat. It has benefits of improving instream flows on the Bow for the environment. It helps the Oldman River because right now, the Oldman Reservoir is the province’s only real means of giving water to medicine Hat when it’s short. Having a similar reservoir on the Bow River will be tremendously beneficial. If this project is built, it will undoubtedly include some hydropower production as part of it. It won’t be a big hydropower facility. Big big hydropower production requires a lot of elevation change and it’s pretty flat there. So although hydropower can and should be produced, it’s not going to be a massive hydroelectric facility just because of the characteristics of the Bow River itself there. So it will provide some electricity. It’s far more of a water management boat than energy production. I’m so excited about this project. Most people we talk to are just excited about the good it can do.”