The State of the Bow River Fishery – Water Management Concerns – Update

December 2018:

Bow River Trout Foundation  expressed our concerns to the Government of Alberta (GOA) in October 2017 with the long-term  water management proposals for enhancement of flood and drought control within the Bow River Basin. Priority was given to one of two new dams at either the Morley Indian Reserve or the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park and the option to increase storage capacity at Ghost Reservoir. Alberta Environment & Parks Minister, Shannon Phillips gave assurance  that stakeholder engagement would take place if the recommendation for new water management infrastructure were given further  consideration. Unfortunately the GOA has moved forward with a  decision to explore the site options in more detail without considering the full extent of new dams and the environmental integrity of the Bow River.

Bow River Trout Foundation expressed our concerns once again in a letter to Minister Phillips on November 05, 2018. It is our belief that the science behind the recommendations to the Minister was flawed in so far as an environmental impact assessment was not considered. In addition, the consultation process to address the impact of such developments on the social and economic consequence to the river and its water use were given little attention.

The focus of our concerns were directed at the current water management practices and their impact on vulnerable trout populations within the Bow River Basin. A complete assessment of the hydroelectric power generation model needs to be addressed before any further flood and drought management options are considered.

Minister Phillips response was received on December 06, 2018. We are encouraged with future stakeholder engagement opportunities.

3 thoughts on “The State of the Bow River Fishery – Water Management Concerns – Update

  1. This is getting out of hand. I have said this for a long time now. Trans Alta need to control the right flow to keep the nature doing there job. Last year the flow rates changed constantly that kill off a lot insects which the trout rely on for food . Why is this being allowed to happen or at the least give the river users the resion why they are allowed to do this . I have good friends that have businesses that if this doesn’t get sorted in the next year their business will face bankruptcy. The Alberta government needs to get a grip on the province they are forcing people to poverty only thinking about themselves. That my rant for now John


    1. Although TransAlta operates the Bow River hydroelectric operations on the Bow River, the mandates for water management are controlled by Alberta Environment and Parks. AEP are governed by historical water licenses, predominantly held by the irrigation districts downstream of Calgary. Up until 2013 there was generally acceptable flow management to satisfy all water users and maintain a vibrant world class recreational fishery. The 2013 flood changed everything! Flood mitigation to protect the City of Calgary became the focal point for immediate changes to upstream water management protocols with the modified water management operations put in place in 2014 whereby reservoir storage is released in the spring to make way for catchment of spring runoff and pending catastrophic high rainfall flooding. The water management protocol is basically returned to natural flow condition and the variables that will come with snow melt and rainfall until there is an expectation of high flows when the reservoirs will catch the increased volume of water. The storage will then be release downstream once the high flow conditions no longer exist. By the middle of July the water management protocols for the Bow River return to normal preexisting conditions.
      This is the theory, but unfortunately the City of Calgary is paranoid about any elevation in water flow and therefore there tends to be knee-jerk response from the provincial water regulator. This is why we see the excessive changes in flows downstream of Calgary. In July 2018 the variable flows upwards of 100 cms on a daily basis. Bow River Trout Foundation sent a letter to TransAlta and AEP indicating the the highly variable flows were negatively impacting the fishery and had the potential to kill the fish. An immediate change in the water operational proceedures was made that gave reasonable stability in flows for the remainder of the year.
      So where are we at? BRT has started an engagement process with the water regulator to put more emphasis on the need for flow stabilization to protect the ecosystem and the fishery. Our position will be rolled out to the fishing community shortly. The challenge will be to meet all water license mandates, give reasonable flood protection Calgary while maintaining the integrity of the river’s ecosystem and fishery.


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