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Cougar Creek flood mitigation gets new contractor after Town, Flatiron split

“Since we undertook the option analysis for the project, really nothing’s changed except to emphasize how important these projects are to mitigate and protect the community.”

CANMORE – A new contractor has taken over the Cougar Creek flood mitigation project after the Town of Canmore and Flatiron Constructors Ltd. agreed to a mutual contract termination without cause.

Calgary-based Ironclad Earthworks assumed a $5.3 million contract March 20 to complete the project that’s two-and-a-half years behind schedule and estimated to be completed in 2025.

“It was important to consider opportunities to undertake short-term work ahead of the spring freshet. … Getting momentum, getting construction moving forward and completing the difficult piece de-risks the rest of the project and provides a clear roadmap for getting the work done,” said Andy Esarte, the Town’s manager of engineering.

Esarte said the site remains vulnerable to spring runoff water that comes from the mountains each spring and is further impacted by the annual rainy season in parts of May and June.

He added the coming work will de-water and de-ice areas to allow foundation grouting, concrete work for sheet pile work, sheet pile installation to 2.5 metres above ground and backfill installation to 2.5 metres above grade.

The work for this phase is expected to be finished Aug. 31 to prepare for work in 2024.

Esarte said by bringing it up to grade, they can remove the diversion in the construction area and rely on the channel to move water which will make “the site far less vulnerable.”

The contract with Earthworks has a contingency of $2 million for unforeseen conditions, but any use of it would need council approval.

It was noted crews would be working “around the clock” and night work may take place, but would be minimized as much as possible. The bulk of the work will also be done further up the canyon, Esarte said.

“The intent is to not do any major hauling or equipment moving at the night. The intent is really to do the noisier work during the day, but if you have an ongoing pumping operation that’s happening, grouting or drilling, to be able to continue that around the clock really helps with the critical path of the schedule.

“The intent is to get in and hit the work hard.”

Ironclad Earthworks has worked on other projects such as Brentwood Village in Calgary, Fairmont Creek flood mitigation in East Kootenay, flood repairs in Fort MacLeod and flood mitigation work for Enmax Power.

Earlier int he month, council approved Town staff seeking a without cause termination that may have resulted in a settlement and release agreement.

The mutual termination between the Town and Flatiron was signed March 10, with Flatiron quickly removing its equipment and property from the site area by March 17. The Town took over rentals on the property such as site trailers and fencing and the termination was finalized March 20.

The Town previously filed a notice of default against Flatiron in 2022 after the two sides were in the middle of a formal dispute process with a referee hearing from both sides.

A response was provided, but it was non-binding for either side.

There were also a dozen facilitated sessions in 2022 that helped resolve technical items, but coming to an agreement on what was causing the delay and fixing it remained unresolved.

Attempts to reach Flatiron by the Outlook were unsuccessful.

Flatiron and the Town originally reached a contract June 23, 2020. The mitigation work was determined to be needed following the 2013 floods that led to millions of dollars in local damage and areas of Canmore having residents be evacuated.

The intent was to finish the project in 2021 and landscaping and reclamation being completed in 2022.

The design includes a 34-metre high embankment and a 20-metre wide spillway on the east abutment, which would allow better management of the flow of water during its peak.

The Town continues to have several upcoming flood mitigation projects either completed or upcoming. However, the Cougar Creek project remains the biggest, most expensive and important with its location in the community.

The low-level outlet is largely finished and some blasting and earth-moving has taken place on the spillway. The excavation of bedrock finished in 2021, though limited work on the main foundation and embankment structure has been completed.

The province provided $48 million for the project, which received the OK from the Natural Resources Conservation Board in 2018 and approved a revised project application in 2019. The money came from the former Alberta Environment and Parks ministry, Alberta Transporation, the federal government and the Town.

Esarte said the Town’s senior leadership will continue discussions with the province to update the work as well as brief other granting agencies. A more comprehensive plan will return to council for approval later this year.

Coun. Tanya Foubert called the project, once completed, a “huge legacy for public safety in our community.”

Esarte told council the delays in the project have only further enhanced the importance of it being completed.

“Since we undertook the option analysis for the project, really nothing’s changed except to emphasize how important these projects are to mitigate and protect the community.”

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