News / Calgary

'It's nuts': Harvie Passage work vehicles digging up sediment while in Bow River

As the province digs into work on the rehabilitation of Harvie Passage, there's some concern by a councillor the work they're doing is invasive

Harvie Passage is being made safer for river users and fish, but some worry work being done is too aggressive on the volatile Bow River.

Metro File Photo

Harvie Passage is being made safer for river users and fish, but some worry work being done is too aggressive on the volatile Bow River.

One Calgary city councillor is describing the scene at Harvie Passage as “nuts.”

The work being done is hard to miss; as crews rehabilitate the flood-washed river to create a safe passage for watercraft and fish. But observers whizzing by the site this week were able to see construction vehicles waded into the waterway, removing sediment from the Bow River.

Coun. Brian Pincott is worried the disruption of having heavy equipment digging around in the Bow’s basin could affect fish habitats already affected by the 2013 floods.  

“There’s no degree of sensitivity whatsoever,” said Pincott. “All of the silt that they’re driving up, that has such an impact downstream on the spawning grounds.”

Pincott said the province’s project has to follow provincial and federal guidelines but he feels they should be extra gentle with the Bow River. He wants the Alberta Environment Minister should look at the project to ensure they’re meeting requirements.

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“It would be shocking to me if that's allowed,” said Pincott. “Certainly the city would never approach a project that way.”

Trout Unlimited provincial biologist Lesley Peterson said this is the appropriate time to work in the river, according to the water act.

“It’s certainly some very significant work going on right now, but those timing windows are meant to protect fish,” Peterson said.

“Anytime you have some heavy equipment working in the river there’s potential for impacts to the health of the river and water quality.”

However, Peterson said she hasn’t been watching the work at Harvie Passage closely enough to comment on it.

The press secretary for Environment Minister Shannon Phillips, Brent Wittmeier, said they take the health of the river very seriously.

“Reconstruction of the Harvie Passage after the devastating 2013 floods was expected to involve work within the Bow River,” he wrote in a provided statement.

“Authorization was granted with specific conditions to protect the habitat, including prevention of work within the direct flow of the river.”

The government has notified Calgary regional staff and they're taking the appropriate measures to ensure conditions are followed – they may intervene if required.

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