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City of Calgary delays release of controversial golf course drainage study

Residents of Highland parks learned Friday afternoon they’ll be waiting a bit longer to see what will happen with a controversial development in a sensitive inner-city wetland, but the area councillor said not much has changed from the draft report.

The Confederation Creek Regional Drainage Study was set to be released sometime in early February, according to the city’s website. However, late Friday afternoon, the city quietly updated the web page where the report was to be released, saying it would be delayed.

“While the final Confederation Park Regional Drainage Study (RDS) report has now been completed, Mayor and Council would like to review the final report prior to its public release,” read the web page. “In light of this, we have made the decision to delay the publication of this report in order to accommodate this request.”

This update did not go unnoticed by Elise Bieche, president of the Highland Park Community Association.

She was confused as to why the report would need to be delayed.

“The last time it was delayed – when it was supposed to be out in May but it didn’t come out until June, we got advanced notice,” she said. “Now it’s just – sorry, it’s not coming out, we’re not telling you when.”

Bieche said she has been told that there will be a planning session on March 2, and that Water Resources will be there to answer questions.

She said she spoke with someone in Water Resources, who let her know of the delay but couldn’t elaborate on the report’s findings.

“If the contents of the report haven’t changed, why not just say [that]?” asked Bieche. “Why not just be transparent? If nothing has changed, why does council want to review it before they release it to the public?”

City council initially gave approval to Maple Project Inc.’s land use amendment from recreational land to land that could be developed.

The approval came even as residents in the area tried to warn anyone who would listen about spring flood levels on the former golf course.

The draft report, which came after the land use approval, validated their concerns and recommended that the city spend an estimated $18 – $70 million on water storage improvement costs and engineering fees. The report also acknowledged the potential need for land acquisition and dam improvements but those costs were not included in the estimate, according to a spokesperson for the City of Calgary.

Ajay Nehru, president of Maple Projects Inc., told LiveWire last June that that it’s the city’s responsibility to protect his land.

There were options in the report to mitigate flooding in other areas, but they had cost ranging from $150 million to $600 million and were not recommended.

Area Coun. Sean Chu said he hasn’t read the final report but has been briefed on it. According to Chu, the possibility of buying some of the land from the developer has not changed.

“Now the decision is where and how much – and how big the piece is if necessary to buy back,” he said.

Chu didn’t have a problem with holding back the final report until he and other members of council could review it.

“I think it’s actually the proper way of doing this,” he said. “As councillors, most councillors want to see it first.”

But a group called Friends of Confederation Creek said in a statement that the report should be made public.

“We understand that council has to keep some information private, like negotiating the purchase of the necessary land, but the study should be released to the public as scheduled.”

Editor’s note: This version of the story clarifies an earlier version which said the report on Confederation Creek had recommended at $35M purchase of land. In fact, the estimate given by in the report for engineering costs and did not include land acquisition costs. The report does not explicitly recommend buying the land, however councillors and the mayor have acknowledged the possibility.