In June of 2015, the City of Calgary will begin to construct some of the first tangible work on the Southwest Calgary Ring Road Project. This work will not be on the road itself, but will be related to utilities that will run under part of the project.
The City and Province of Alberta has agreed to construct a new storm sewer line to replace the existing South Richmond Storm Trunk that currently crosses a portion of the Tsuut’ina Nation reserve known as ‘the 940‘. The new line will be located entirely within the City of Calgary city limits along 37th street SW in Lakeview when completed, while the old line will be abandoned. This abandonment and replacement is not due to the functionality or suitability of the existing infrastructure, rather it is necessary due to reasons that are political and jurisdictional in nature; reasons that go back more than 60 years.
(Map showing the area known as the 940, plus the existing and replacement storm trunk sewer locations. Source: Canada Lands Survey and City of Calgary)
The Existing Storm Trunk
For decades the Canadian Military had used the 940 as a training camp, including seasonal training since at least 1910. The area had been Western Canada’s largest WWI training grounds, and by the 1950s the Department of National Defence wanted to turn the longstanding camp into a permanent barracks. Comprising 940 acres of the Tsuut’ina reserve and laying southwest of Glenmore Trail and 37th street SW, north of the Elbow river, the 940 was sold to the Military in 1952 for $200,000.1
Following the purchase, the area was annexed by the City in 1956 and became a part of Calgary.
At this time the City was experiencing rapid population growth and expansion; new subdivisions were being planned and the City needed to service these areas. To accommodate the drainage of about 800 acres of the City, including the new communities of Glamorgan, Glenbrook and Rutland Park, the South Richmond Storm Trunk was built through the 940 towards the Elbow river for discharge.
(South Richmond Storm Trunk Catchment Area, 2015. Source: City of Calgary)
(The existing outfall of the South Richmond Storm Trunk into the Elbow river. July 2015)
The purchase of the 940 by the Military, and its later inclusion within the City limits, was not to last; the changing status of this land would impact both the City and the Tsuut’ina for decades to come.
The Return of the Land and Disputed Interests
The sale of the 940, overseen by one Federal government department (Department of Indian Affairs) to another (Department of Defence), was viewed as unlawful by the Tsuut’ina, and the transaction was contested by the Nation as early as the mid 1970s.2 The Nation sought to have the land returned, and in the face of resistant Military, a lawsuit was filed in 1982 to challenge the sale.
Following nearly a decade of challenges and discussions, the Military settled the issue out-of-court by agreeing to return ownership of the 940 to the Nation. On July 27 1992 the Privy Council of Canada signed order 1992-1731 to reintegrated the land back into the Tsuut’ina reserve, and the following year the City of Calgary formally de-annexed the land. However, while this order returned the land to reserve status and settled many of the outstanding legal issues that surrounded it, the order failed to address several points that would become increasingly important to both the City and the Nation.
When the 940 was reintegrated into the reserve, the order effectively reversed the original sale based on the 1952 boundaries and utility right-of-ways that crossed the land at that time. Only the two electricity transmission lines and a natural gas right-of-way which had existed at the time of the sale were recognized in the return, despite several newer utilities having been constructed in the years following the original sale, including the South Richmond Storm Trunk.3
(Canada Lands Survey No. 42929, storm sewer right-of-way, 1956)
The omission of the newer utility right-of-ways in the return order created a problematic situation; the 940 had been returned to reserve status, but now contained third-party utilities without any formal easements, or other agreements, that would allow for that infrastructure to be located on Tsuut’ina land. This raised concerns and questions about the status of these utilities: could Calgary cross reserve land to access the South Richmond Storm Trunk if maintenance and repairs were required, or would City employees risk trespassing on private property? Could the Nation unilaterally remove the infrastructure from their land if it interfered with future commercial developments? Could the Nation charge rent to the City for the use of reserve land? There were potentially harmful ramifications for both the City and the Nation should the situation be allowed to remain unchanged, and both parties wanted clarity over the status of these right-of-ways.
In 2005 Mayor Dave Bronconier noted these unresolved issues during discussions around the Grey Eagle Casino. Before the City would entertain requests from the Nation to provide access and water service to the Casino, the City wanted to address these concerns through a new agreement.
In a letter to the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Comission regarding the Nation’s application for a casino license, the City stated that “The need for [an agreement] results from the fact that a major sanitary trunk line and storm sewer systems were installed some years ago on land that the federal government subsequently transferred back to reserve status in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, there is a legal issue as to whether The City’s interests in regard to these utility lines were sufficiently protected at the time the lands were transferred back to reserve status. Given this, [an agreement] must satisfy The Cityʼs need to have access to operate and maintain, for so long as The City requires, all those utility lines presently existing on Nation lands.” 4
Although an agreement to address these issues was not reached through discussions around the casino project, and later federal court actions would be launched and servicing agreements signed, most of the outstanding issues surrounding the South Richmond Storm Trunk would soon be addressed as part of a larger agreement.
2013 Ring Road Agreement
On October 24 2013 the Tsuut’ina Nation voted to enter into an agreement with the Province of Alberta for the sale of reserve lands for the Southwest Calgary Ring Road project. In addition to the land and compensation components of the agreement there included a section dealing with ‘disputed interests’ regarding utilities crossing reserve land.
The 2013 Ring Road agreement requires the Province to ‘abandon’ the South Richmond Storm Trunk where it crosses the 940, though this abandonment does not require the infrastructure to be removed. The existing line will continue to remain in place, and could be used by the Nation for to accommodate the drainage needs of future developments on the 940 should it choose to do so.
(South Richmond Storm Trunk replacement line, 2015. Source: City of Calgary)
With the abandonment of the existing storm trunk agreed, the Province needed to provide a new line in order to continue to service the drainage needs of the the South Richmond Storm Trunk catchment area. Following the signing of the 2013 agreement, the City of Calgary was asked to undertake the construction of the new storm trunk, with the Province picking up the cost to do so. In July of 2014 the Calgary City Council approved a budget increase of $17.4 million for the project and plans were put in motion to begin construction of the new line in June of 2015. The Province has requested a completion date of June 30 2016 in order to “facilitate timely construction of the ring road.”5
Building Infrastructure and Relationships
The construction of this replacement storm trunk will not only kick-start some of the more tangible aspects of the Southwest Calgary Ring Road project and provide necessary infrastructure for the City of Calgary, but it will also continue the process of responding to decades-old grievances that the Tsuut’ina Nation are seeking to address.
Update April 21 2015: Cost and Schedule Revisions
The cost of the storm trunk relocation project has now been revised to $36.18 million, more than that double the original budget, as noted in the April 21 2015 meeting of the Calgary City Council’s Priorities and Finance committee. The increase in cost is attributed to the use of tunnelling to install a portion of the storm trunk line in order to ‘preserve an environmentally sensitive area and minimize disruptions to homeowners’, and due to revisions to the design of the infrastructure to ‘address slope instability’.6
The Alberta Government has agreed to continue to cover the entire cost of the project, including the revised budget.
The revised agreement between the City of Calgary and the Province also includes a deadline extension; while the portion of the line between Lakeview Drive and 66th avenue is still required to be completed by June 30 2016, the rest of the project, including the outfall to the Elbow River, is now required to be completed no later than December 31, 2017.
Further information on the storm trunk relocation project can be found at calgary.ca/stormtrunk
1 – Order in Council of the Privy Council 1575 1/2. March 21 1952.
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada Sales Report No. 29259, retrieved February 15 2015. http://pse3-esd3.ainc-inac.gc.ca/.
2 – ‘Sarcee Band pressing for return of Forces base’ Carol Conway, Calgary Herald. January 14 1976.
3 – Order in Council of the Privy Council 1992-1731. July 27 1992.
4 – Letter to Julian J. Nowiki, Chairman Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission. Mayor Dave Bronconier, City of Calgary. September 20 2005.
5 – Utilities & Environmental Protection Report to Priorities and Finance Committee. City of Calgary, PFC2014-0570. July 15 2014.
6 – Utilities & Environmental Protection Report to Priorities and Finance Committee. City of Calgary,PFC2015-0310. April 21 2015.