The alignment of the final required wildlife corridor on Three Sisters Mountain Village lands is being submitted to the province of Alberta this week by the developer.
The provincial government is the approving authority for all wildlife corridors and since Three Sisters began development work on its property in the early ’90s it has been required to establish wildlife corridors throughout the area.
With only one wildlife corridor remaining to establish, it has become critical for the TSMV to move forward with planning development on its final parcels of land, referred to as the Smith Creek area.
QuantumPlace principle Chris Ollenberger, who is heading up the work for TSMV, was in front of council on Tuesday (June 14) to update elected officials on how the process to draft an area structure plan for Smith Creek is proceeding.
Ollenberger said in order to know where development will be proposed on the landscape, it was clear that where it could not go was an important first step. He presented a draft map of the proposed wildlife corridor during his presentation.
“This is what we are proposing to submit to the province sometime this week,” he said. “This corridor is different from others in the past we have proposed.”
Typically, Canmore residents and council would not get to see the proposed alignment of the corridor before provincial representatives. However, TSMV and the municipality have undertaken an entirely new process for drafting the Smith Creek area structure plan and as part of that work the developer has been up front in engaging the community and stakeholders in the process. That has included a community advisory group with membership from various sectors with an interest in the future development area – also known historically as sites seven, eight and nine.
“In the grand scheme of things we got valuable input,” he said. “There have also been significant changes since when the 2002 and 1998 wildlife corridors were established.”
A major change to how the newly proposed corridor sits on the landscape, said Ollenberger, is how it aligns with a highway underpass. He said given the issues with steep creeks that is top of mind after the 2013 flood, creating another underpass to align with one of the creeks that poses a risk makes sense.
“If we can align the corridor with the needs of steep creeks, there is a good rational for that and it would require another underpass,” he said, adding the preference would be to keep the already built underpass as part of the overall connectivity system, but the decision is ultimately up to the province. “We are showing it as an option at this point. Either one will work, but this is still completely subject to the province. We thought it was important to show council what we are moving forward with.”
There is also a disconnect with the Wind Valley corridor that has been an issue of concern for municipal officials for over a decade. The new alignment, said Ollenberger, addressed that disconnect and widens the corridor to 600 metres in one section, as well as narrows it to the eastern portion compared to what has been proposed in the past.
“At the end of the day when we connect it together we are looking at 70 per cent of the private lands in Smith Creek proposed as wildlife corridor,” he said. “I think we have a good balance and subject to a material change, this is likely to be pretty darn close to where we wend up at the end of the day.
“Of course, the province is the sole regulator of wildlife corridor designations.”
Ollenberger said he hopes the province will approve the corridor alignment before first reading of the Smith Creek area structure plan, which is expected in the fall.