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Exshaw residents express 'fear, anger, shock and exhaustion' in race to save homes from groundwater

“I have some residents that are angry and some that are afraid and some that are exhausted because they’ve been pumping water for weeks ...": MD of Bighorn Reeve Dene Cooper

EXSHAW – Dozens of Exshaw residents are pumping thousands of litres of water out of their basements Tuesday (June 2) as significant levels of groundwater have flooded the hamlet.

There’s been “fear, anger, shock and exhaustion” from residents in Exshaw, about 15 kilometres east of Canmore, who’ve been scrambling to save their homes and possessions and are worried things could get worse in the MD of Bighorn hamlet.

“I think there’s about 30 houses in jeopardy of being capsized right now,” said Exshaw resident Brent Peters.

Peters said there was 50 centimetres of groundwater swamping in the basement of his home on the corner of Heart Mountain Drive and Mt Mcgillivary Drive Tuesday and he questioned the recently completed flood mitigation work on nearby Exshaw Creek.

“It’s our strong feeling that Exshaw Creek has been diverted underground, underneath our homes, which means it’s running underneath the houses of all of the residents of Exshaw, so the ones that are dry might not understand what’s happening to their foundations,” Peters said. “I think there’s 500 residents, I think the entire hamlet of Exshaw is in jeopardy right now.”

Exshaw Creek mitigations were designed to better manage mountain creek flooding, preventing overland flooding (1/500 year protection level). 

Reeve Dene Cooper, who is an Exshaw resident, said 60 of the 200 Exshaw homes in the northeast have been affected or could be affected, adding that groundwater flooding is perennial in the hamlet.

No other groundwater flooding was reported in the MD of Bighorn at this time.

“I have some residents that are angry and some that are afraid and some that are exhausted because they’ve been pumping water for weeks, so there’s lots of emotions that are being expressed. They’ve all been very sincere with me and I’m very appreciative of the fact that they have spoken clearly about their experience," Cooper said.

In regards to the creek mitigations contributing to the excess of groundwater leakage is it's "highly unlikely," but "probably not impossible."

“I consider it is highly improbable that the recently completed creek mitigations are contributing in any substantial way to the ground water flooding in east Exshaw,” Cooper said.

“The problem is a super saturated alluvial fan. Heavy mountainside snow melt followed by several days of rain have caused the ground water to accumulate to saturated levels. The water is slowly moving through the gravels to the Bow River. More rain will aggravate the ground water issues. Higher Bow River levels will slow the return to normal ground water conditions.”

The Outlook reached out for comment to Golder Associates Inc., the engineers behind the Exshaw Creek mitigation, and will update this story when possible.

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Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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