Bow River Reservoir Options - Feasibility Study

Alberta is now in a general election. All public engagement activities have paused during the election period.

The Government of Alberta is seeking input on the Bow River Reservoir Options Initiative as part of Phase 2: Feasibility Study.

This questionnaire is collecting feedback to inform the Option Evaluation Framework, which will provide insights into any potential impacts or benefits of each reservoir option. Framework evaluation factors were developed with input gathered throughout the BRRO initiative from Indigenous communities and organizations, stakeholders, and the public.

Your feedback will help the Government assess options to mitigate flood and drought impacts on the Bow River. Input gathered through this questionnaire will also help determine which reservoir option is preferred, if any, and should proceed to Phase 3: Engineering and Regulatory Approval Process.

The feasibility study continues to look at reservoir options in the Bow River basin upstream of Calgary. This round of engagement focuses on the Relocated Ghost Dam and Glenbow East options only:

  • Relocated Ghost Dam: An expansion of the existing Ghost Reservoir
  • Glenbow East: A new reservoir between Cochrane and the Bearspaw Dam at the western edge of Calgary

Note: The Morley option is proceeding separately.

The survey will take 5 to 15 minutes to complete and closes May 13, 2024.

Note: This questionnaire is best viewed on a laptop, desktop computer or tablet.

The Government of Alberta is seeking input on the Bow River Reservoir Options Initiative as part of Phase 2: Feasibility Study.

This questionnaire is collecting feedback to inform the Option Evaluation Framework, which will provide insights into any potential impacts or benefits of each reservoir option. Framework evaluation factors were developed with input gathered throughout the BRRO initiative from Indigenous communities and organizations, stakeholders, and the public.

Your feedback will help the Government assess options to mitigate flood and drought impacts on the Bow River. Input gathered through this questionnaire will also help determine which reservoir option is preferred, if any, and should proceed to Phase 3: Engineering and Regulatory Approval Process.

The feasibility study continues to look at reservoir options in the Bow River basin upstream of Calgary. This round of engagement focuses on the Relocated Ghost Dam and Glenbow East options only:

  • Relocated Ghost Dam: An expansion of the existing Ghost Reservoir
  • Glenbow East: A new reservoir between Cochrane and the Bearspaw Dam at the western edge of Calgary

Note: The Morley option is proceeding separately.

The survey will take 5 to 15 minutes to complete and closes May 13, 2024.

Note: This questionnaire is best viewed on a laptop, desktop computer or tablet.

Alberta is now in a general election. All public engagement activities have paused during the election period.

Do you have a question about the Bow River Reservoir Options Feasibility Study? Ask it here and our project team will strive to post an answer as soon as possible. 

Please do not include any personal information in your username or question to ensure your privacy when information and responses are posted publicly. 

  • A consultant in yesterday's virtual session referred participants to Appendix C of the Concept report to understand the criteria and weighting they used to score the impact and benefit on residents in each of the options. On review of the document, it appears that you only consider 28 homes on Ghost Lake "impacted" if you flood them out. But there appears to be NO consideration of ALL of the homes impacted by the annual draining of the ecosystem of water, as has been the case since 2013, leaving homes and residents without well water, compromised well water, no feasible access to water for fire protection, no feasible recreational access to water, and severely impacted riparian areas of wildlife. How come factors, as a result of the Alberta Government's payment to TransAlta since the flood of 2013, which have heavily impacted people's lives, livelihoods and safety, and drastically impacted wildlife and the ecosystem, are not considered impacts at all in the analysis? And will they we considered moving forward?

    3rd of 4 Ghost Generations Devastated Since 2013 asked about 3 years ago

    The objective of the site screening process described in Appendix C of the Conceptual Assessment report found here was to select the preferred option in each of three stretches of river:  Morley, Ghost and Glenbow.  Therefore, the process focused on factors that would differentiate between options in a given stretch of river.  Now that three options have been selected, one in each stretch of river, a more detailed feasibility study of each option will be completed.  This includes identification and consideration of other incremental impacts or benefits for each option.  The option evaluation process at the end of the Phase 2 Feasibility Study will build on the factors considered during the conceptual site screening process and will consider additional factors identified by the study team, Indigenous groups, stakeholders, and/or the public. Except for a few years preceding the flood of 2013, the existing Ghost Reservoir has been drawn down annually for decades, making room for flood water in the early spring to protect the dam should an extreme flood occur, and for maintenance such as the spillway gate retrofit which occurred in the late 1980’s.  As described in an August 2021 agreement for the five-year renewal of the Ghost Reservoir agreement with TransAlta found here, having lower water levels during the control period of the agreement is still within the defined operating limits of TransAlta’s water license and within the historic operating range.  Operational water levels will vary from year to year, depending on river forecasting during the spring flood risk season and a number of other factors, and will fluctuate over a broad range of elevations within any given year. The Bow River Reservoir Options (BRRO) initiative Phase 2: Feasibility Study will further study the above‑noted three options for the purposes of flood and drought mitigation in the downstream river basin.  The Feasibility Study will consider the factors you mention; i.e., incremental groundwater, recreational, and environmental impacts that could result from the BRRO initiative, beyond those that are a part of historic licensed reservoir operations.  We would welcome any additional feedback you wish to provide regarding other factors that the study team should consider.

    We would also like to clarify that, as explained in more detail in the Conceptual Assessment report, while the initial site screening process considered raising the maximum reservoir level for Ghost Reservoir, the Phase 1 conceptual design of the Relocated Ghost Dam option maintained the current licensed maximum reservoir level of Ghost Reservoir of Elevation 1191.77 m.  This revision to the Phase 1 conceptual design was made based on engagement feedback from the Summer Village of Ghost Lake and in consideration of incremental impacts on Stoney Nakoda First Nations reserve lands, including the community of Morley.  Therefore, the Phase 1 conceptual design of the Relocated Ghost Dam option would result in no incremental impacts to the Summer Village of Ghost Lake during a flood event.  The Phase 2 feasibility study will continue to refine the designs for the three options being considered, as more information is collected and the options are studied in more detail.

  • Is there a possibility in these options that operating levels of Ghost dam will leave the Summer Village of Ghost Lake without annual recreational access (1190.8m minimum) permanently - assuming no rare flood event? What is the worst case scenario for annual Ghost Lake water levels in these options in terms of annual levels and numbers of days below Summer Village recreational access level of 1190.8m - assuming no rare flood event?

    3rd of 4 Ghost Generations Devastated Since 2013 asked about 3 years ago

    Thank you for your questions regarding how future Ghost Reservoir water levels would compare to your indicated preferred recreational access water surface level of Elevation 1190.8 m, which is approximately 1 m below the existing licensed full supply level of Elevation 1191.77 m.  It is too early in the feasibility study to provide you with the specific information that you requested.  However, below is a response to your broader question of fluctuating water levels in Ghost Reservoir. 

    TransAlta is the owner of the existing Ghost Dam and Reservoir.  According to the terms of the modified operations agreement with TransAlta found here the Government of Alberta works closely with TransAlta each year to assess and determine appropriate reservoir elevations during the spring flood risk control period, May 16th to July 7th.  The lower water levels during this control period are still within the defined operating limits of TransAlta’s water license and within the historic operating range.  Except for a few years immediately preceding the flood of 2013, the reservoir has historically been drawn down annually well below your indicated preferred recreational access elevation of 1190.8 m in the early spring period to provide additional storage space for flood management, and the reservoir was refilled to the extent possible following the spring flood risk period.  

    The Bow River Reservoir Options (BRRO) initiative will study three reservoir options (i.e. Morley, Relocated Ghost Dam and Glenbow East) for purposes including both flood and drought management, as well as other uses including hydro-power production and recreation.  Flood management would continue to require low spring period reservoir levels.  Drought management would require refilling the reservoir to the extent possible following the spring flood risk period similar to historic operations, but now considering use of that water should a drought subsequently occur.  This would result in the potential for lower water levels beyond just the spring flood risk season.  Hydro‑power production and recreation are best served when the reservoir is at, or near, its full supply level.  Considering such uses, reservoir water levels will vary with season and year dependent on forecast/actual flood/drought risk/conditions.  Future operations of Ghost Reservoir could be modified irrespective of which of the three options, if any, is ultimately progressed to construction.  Any impacts on recreational use would be mitigated to the extent possible.  

  • The virtual engagement session on ENGAGEMENT didn't provide any opportunity for engagement so I trust my voice will be heard and responded to here in Questions & Answers. If this is genuine public engagement, why is the process so intent to isolate, limit and avoid the public or make it so that their voices aren't heard or shared? Why is all your imagery of Ghost Lake and the Summer Village taken post-August at high water, misleading the public on the current reality of the complete absence of water and its destructive effects on Ghost Lake ecology, residents, homes, drinking water, recreation, fire prevention, safety, property values? Where can I find the monitoring of those effects over time so there's a record and a benchmark for cost-benefit analysis? Why are these sessions organised at a time when public engagement professionals know that people will be busiest with graduations, getting out of school for summer, doing exams or trying to get work done before the summer months? It is perceived as intentional avoidance of public engagement. Why are these sessions crammed into a few days and only available on a frequently malfunctioning online platform that isn't consistently functional on desktops, and not at all functional on mobile devices? I want in-person engagement sessions that are accessible to all members of the public - how do you account for the people who can't participate in this medium or got repeatedly frustrated by the constant dropping or malfunctioning of both the website and the Zoom calls. It is unacceptable to suggest that this engagement couldn't have been provided in a safe physical space for more members of the public to get informed and provide feedback - it has been done throughout the pandemic by government and private industry. You could have come to the Summer Village of Ghost Lake and we would have found a way to accommodate the session safely, you could have had sessions at the Alberta Government lands at Ghost Dam, you could have had a drive-thru open house. Or you could honourably, extend your sessions a week to when restrictions lift and we could do this the usual way. Why are the engagement sessions 30 mins long for 4-6 complex topic breakout rooms, when the materials online are vast, technical and the documents 100s of pages long? How are people supposed to get anything from the virtual breakout rooms when the consultants in the sessions don't present any information but just pepper participants with leading and personal questions to control the conversation? How come participants are kept in virtual isolation from other participants? What is the cost of this engagement process when the consultants outnumber the participants 3:1 - clearly jamming bandwidth until participants get dropped from calls? How do you ensure that the participants who get dropped from your Zoom calls get heard, and/or how are the accounted for in your reporting? Why are the only Pins available on your Interactive Map labelled with a confirmation bias of things I "can" do (Live, Work, Play), when it's the inequitable negative impacts of this process that need to be heard. Where are the pins for what I "can't" do (Live, Work, Play) since 2013? Where is the availability to provide more than one photo to illustrate the before 2013 and after 2013 effects on our lives? I want the drastic negative effects on my life and those of my family known, recorded, understood, responded to, mitigated, negotiated, solved, compensated for in this process - where are the pins for that? How do we voice our concerns about the things we can't do, the dangers that now present themselves, the basic human rights that are being violated, the property rights that are being violated? How are community lives and properties being accounted for in this process? Bowness flood impacted residents have publicly, formally rejected berms to protect their families, community and properties in what we all agree is an extremely rare event of another flood of similar magnitude - so why is the Alberta Government (to borrow the words Sara Parker, Executive Director of GRPF) "annihilating an entire ecosystem", impacting our riparian habitats, our access to water for drinking and fire prevention, impacting both our ecology and recreational use, and destroying the access and enjoyment of our future generations in the Summer Village of Ghost Lake? How is this process equitable or how will it be made equitable? Where are the other members' of the public's questions and answers for us to see and share? If they are being hidden, why?

    3rd of 4 Ghost Generations Devastated Since 2013 asked about 3 years ago

    Thank you for your comments and for sharing your perspective.  They have all been captured and will be considered by the study team during the feasibility study.  Some responses to your specific comments are provided below.

    Feasibility Study Engagement:  The study team welcomes feedback on the three reservoir options and the overall initiative from all interested parties.  All comments received will be considered by the study team.  In addition to the virtual engagement opportunities in June 2021, there are several other avenues for providing your comments, as follows:

    • The interactive map feature on our engagement website that you mention can also be used to indicate where you would no longer be able to live, work or play if a given option were selected; please just add that to your comment.  
    • You can view what others have said by looking at the other pins on the interactive map and other questions and answers as they are posted on our engagement website.  
    • You can also email any comments or concerns to aep.bowbasin@gov.ab.ca 
    • You can connect with Alberta Environment and Parks Outreach Services via telephone at 310‑3773 (toll-free).  
    • We also plan to have two more rounds of engagement later in the feasibility study once further work is completed by the study team and there is more information to share and discuss.

    Imagery:  Imagery used for the first round of feasibility study engagement was taken from video footage collected by flying a drone during favourable weather conditions in June and July of 2019 as part of the Phase 1 Conceptual Assessment.  Collecting the video footage at that time of year was required to feed into other aspects of the Conceptual Assessment desktop study.  The scope of the feasibility study does not include collecting additional drone footage for the Ghost and Glenbow stretches of river.   However, we may have opportunities to collect additional photos showing the study areas at other times of the year, particularly when our planned field programs are underway.

    Reservoir Levels & Effects:  

    Water levels in Ghost Reservoir have fluctuated historically, and having lower operating levels in the reservoir during certain times of the year and variations in levels from one year to the next is part of operating a reservoir.   The feasibility study will be considering incremental impacts that could result from each of the three options being considered.  For the Morley and Glenbow East options, this will include evaluating how the existing Ghost Reservoir could work in concert with a new reservoir to provide flood and drought mitigation.  As part of our environmental evaluation for the feasibility study, our study team is interested in understanding the potential incremental impacts of the options on the regional groundwater and groundwater usage.  We have contacted the Summer Village of Ghost Lake regarding our planned field program for the feasibility study. This included our interest in obtaining some further information regarding some existing water wells within the municipality.

    Round 1 Engagement Methods and Timing:  Conducting effective engagement during a pandemic is difficult.  We also look forward to having in-person engagement sessions, similar to those that we held during the Phase 1 Conceptual Assessment.   We anticipate that this may be possible for the planned second and third rounds of engagement for the Phase 2 Feasibility Study.  Earlier this year when we started planning the first round of engagement, we looked for the best way to engage the public in an open, transparent, and safe manner.   Given the uncertainty at the time as to when COVID-19 health restrictions would be lifted, we decided to proceed with planning virtual engagement sessions.  We planned the sessions for June 2021 for two reasons.  We wanted to provide initial information about the feasibility study to the public early in the study, along with an opportunity for all to provide their initial input to the study team.  It also allowed us to provide information to the public before starting to contact specific landowners to discuss land access for our planned 2021 field programs.

    Virtual Engagement Platforms and Format:  Our goal with using a virtual platform for the initial round of engagement during Phase 2 was to provide an experience that was as similar as possible to an in-person Open House, given health restrictions.  The Virtual Information Centre was designed to provide all the same information as one would receive at an Open House.  Our live virtual information sessions were designed to provide opportunities for people to meet the project staff, ask questions, and provide input. Our intent was not to avoid meeting people in person, nor to limit the number of people who could attend. Our intent was to provide a safe means to engage amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic.  We researched various virtual platforms and connected with other engagement professionals before deciding on our virtual engagement tools. We recognize that there are challenges with online engagement for some.  The virtual information centre and the Zoom forum used for the live public information sessions were tested on computers and cell phones in both rural and urban areas.  Although we recognize that some people in rural areas do have more difficulties with connection speeds, the majority of participants did not have problems.  

    Rather than having a single virtual room with study team members giving formal presentations to a large group of people at once, the live virtual information sessions made use of a number of smaller group breakout rooms.   The purpose of this decision was to promote dialogue – both with study team staff and amongst participants. At times our breakout rooms were at capacity (10 participants per room) while at other times there were only one or two participants in a room. In either case, the participants’ voices were heard and comments were captured by the study team.   We were particularly interested in hearing what factors participants would like the study team to consider in evaluating the options.  You have expressed concerns about a number of factors relating to potential effects of this initiative, and these will be considered by the study team in the evaluation of options. Although the live virtual information sessions were booked using 30-minute timeslots to make the arrival process easier, no one was asked to leave at the end of their 30 minutes, and many people stayed longer.  

  • Please advise as to how many acres of the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park will be lost to the the Glenbow East alternative?

    DonaldM asked about 3 years ago

    As indicated in Table C-5.1 of Appendix C of the Phase 1 Conceptual Assessment report found here, the conceptual version of the Glenbow East option reservoir could temporarily flood in the order of 293 hectares (or about 724 acres) of the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park when the reservoir is at its maximum level during a flood event.  However, this is a preliminary estimate only, based on a conceptual layout, and will be better defined during the current Phase 2 Feasibility Study.  Further, please note that the locations identified in Phase 1 are approximate and the eventual location of the best feasible option may vary by up to a kilometre or more.  Under normal operating conditions, the reservoir level would be lower, and the typical flooded area would be smaller.  For comparison, the total area of the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park is more than 3,200 acres (source: https://grpf.ca/).


  • Are increased recreational opportunities and land value appreciations considered with the "Glenbow East" option? I would think if this reservoir is viable the increase economic opportunities would greatly outweigh the other options.

    litwin asked about 3 years ago

    During the Phase 2: Feasibility Study first round of engagement, we are collecting feedback on “What factors do you feel AEP should consider when evaluating the three reservoir options?”

    Increased recreational opportunities and land value appreciations for Glenbow East are factors that can be considered, and we will add them to our list.

  • A rethink on the project is needed. The original Bow Basin Water Management Objectives were limited to solely water management to reduce the risk of flooding to the City of Calgary and ease drought concerns in the eastern Alberta irrigation districts. Although it is my understanding that environmental concerns were asked to be included in the objective, little to no consideration was given to this area of concern. Basically an additional dam of the Bow River does little to offset the risk of flooding to the City of Calgary without modifications to water management policy during the spring and early summer months. It has become clear the the modified water management protocol that now exists for Ghost Reservoir and other reservoirs upstream have a greater impact on flood protection that a new or upgraded dam upstream of Calgary. The current hydropeaking power generation plants within the Bow Basin are almost redundant in the current day power generation capacity within Alberta, representing less than 5% of Alberta's power generation capacity. Although not considered when the hydroelectric dams were built, it is now well established the a sizable degradation to riparian and fish habitat takes place. Therefore the justification for a new dam is outweighed by the negative impact on the environment. With this background, why has decommissioning of peakhydro power generation not been considered as an an alternative to a new dam construction. The existing reservoirs could meet water storage needs and allow "run-of-the-river" power generation where deemed appropriate.

    CRUA - Peter asked about 3 years ago

    Thank you for your input regarding the existing reservoirs and the change in their operations as an alternative to a new dam for providing flood and drought mitigation in the Bow River. The ongoing Bow River Reservoir Options (BRRO) Initiative Phase 2 Feasibility Study continues to build on previous study of methods of reducing flood and drought risk, and improving water management within the Bow River Basin. The Feasibility Study will look at the technical feasibility of the 3 identified reservoir options, and complete an evaluation based on factors including environmental, social and economic factors.  There will also be a complementary study that will look for alternatives to a reservoir that may provide functionally equivalent flood and drought mitigation in the Bow River basin; This scope of work has not yet been initiated, but your input will be considered in the complementary study.