By Kassidy Christensen
During an April 16 special meeting of council, two motions were unanimously approved concerning the southwest dike.
The first approved motion authorized Mayor Craig Snodgrass to “sign the extension regarding the sale and purchase of the lands needed for the southwest berm,” changing the conditions deadline from April 15 to 17.
The second motion that was approved was for Snodgrass to implement the purchase agreement for land needed to construct the “reverse s-curve” dike design.
“The town and the Monteith family are now moving forward together on this project,” Snodgrass is quoted as saying in a town press release. “We are very excited to work together to complete the southwest dike as it is an integral part of the town’s overall flood mitigation strategy.”
Landowner John Monteith stated in the release, “Our family is pleased that this important aspect of flood protection for High River can move forward.
“We look forward to working collaboratively with the town through its completion and beyond,” Monteith added.
As reported, town documents from Jan. 22 stated council approved a motion to move forward with a section 8 expropriation on Dec. 11 and for Snodgrass to sign the Notice of Intention to Expropriate for lands needed for the berm.
Snodgrass told the Times the landowner presented the town with an offer in late January.
“It’s the same deal … we were negotiating before that broke up on us … it's the same alignment, it's the same money value,” he said, adding landowner compensation is $4.16 million.
Small but important “sticking points” that inhibited a previous agreement were recently resolved, he said. Snodgrass said offer negotiations and expropriation proceedings occurred at the same time.
“During any expropriation if the landowner and the purchaser can come to a deal outside of expropriation, you can abandon expropriation at any time,” he said.
Snodgrass stated in the release the expropriation will be abandoned due to the agreement.
“The reason why we're on an April 15 deadline this week … was because we'd been far enough in the expropriation proceedings that we either had to get this done or serve to Land Titles,” Snodgrass said.
Upon receiving a certificate from Land Titles, “then we're locked into expropriation,” he added.
“That's why we all worked so hard,” Snodgrass said, noting efforts from the landowner and some of their consulting individuals, the lawyers and town staff.
“…We all know this is the right move for High River,” he said. “It's the right move for the town as an organization; it's the right move for the landowner, (and) it's a win-win we all wanted.”
Snodgrass said the s-curve is “the design we all wanted initially.”
“The hockey stick (alignment) was a last resort to expropriate that land and get that done,” he said. “The s-curve is the win-win for everybody.”
Snodgrass noted the value of not having the dike so close to 12 Avenue SW and of potential flood waters not reaching the northeast corner of the land.
“This allows the water to continue down easier,” he said.
Construction timing is reduced by about a year by directly working with the landowner on the s-curve design, Snodgrass said.
“By the time we got expropriation done and then went into the environmental approval process, we're looking at two years from right now," he said.
With the agreement complete, the town started the approval process on the s-curve with Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) as of April 17, he said. The land purchase will be final upon receipt of approval, Snodgrass added.
“We submitted the s-curve design a year and a half ago to (AEP) on the design at that point in time, and it had actually gone through and was ready to go through,” Snodgrass said.
Due to minor alignment changes the current design was re-submitted after this recent decision, he said. Upon its approval public consultation will take place, Snodgrass said.
“Everybody (has to) understand what this means to them, which there's no adverse impact to this design over any other option, which is the hockey stick or do nothing,” Snodgrass said.
Snodgrass said he expects the AEP approval process will have to take time.
“If we're in the ground next spring (2019) sometime, I'm happy,” he said, adding berm construction would take roughly 12 to 14 weeks.
By May or June of 2019 the hope is to have the dike “functionally complete,” Snodgrass said. He added they estimate it will be fully complete by late summer 2019.
Town documents stated it’s anticipated the project will stay within the budget.
Snodgrass said the budget, funded through a provincial grant, remains at $20.9 million.
Compensation of $4.16 million for the landowner is included in the $20.9 million, he said.
Snodgrass mentioned three individuals, Scott Tannas, Cam Crawford and Jim Walker, who assisted with making an agreement happen after expropriation proceedings commenced.
“(Tannas and Walker) were involved in the early stages of talking between myself and John (Monteith) … trying to find out where the sticking points were,” Snodgrass said, adding Crawford soon became involved.
Snodgrass said he communicated to those three the town’s willingness to hold discussions with the Monteith’s if they wished to bring an offer forward.
“Thank those individuals when you see them because they are the reason this happened,” Snodgrass said.
He also thanked town employees Tom Gilliss and Jessica Giesbrecht for their hard work.
Remaining flood mitigations projects include the Centre Street flood gates, Fifth Street NE bank armouring on the east bank south of the George Groeneveld Crossing and a small repair on the golf course berm, he said.
The flood gates and bank armouring are anticipated to be completed by summer, and Snodgrass said the berm repair should be finished come fall.
“Congratulations High River, you continue to be the most well-protected community in North America from flood risk, and even better now," Snodgrass said.