Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


General Questions

The purpose of the Drumheller Resiliency and Flood Mitigation Office (DRFMO) is to protect the people and property in Drumheller from loss due to flooding and changes in climate, and to preserve the value of property and ensure risk is reduced to levels which allows financial and insurance products to remain available.

We are funded in part by the Government of Canada Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund ($22 M), Government of Alberta Community Resiliency Program ($28 M), and the Town of Drumheller ($5 M).

DFMCAS is a multi-hazard solution covering 100-km of riverbank, designed to reduce flooding and protect Drumheller into the 22nd century. It began in April 2019 and will end in March 2024. The program is based on the following areas of focus:

  • Communication and public engagement
  • Regulatory/ approvals
  • Conveyance capacity
  • Structural measures
  • Municipal Emergency Plan

Different dike infrastructure in the Town of Drumheller is owned by the Town and the Provincial Government. There is currently over 30 km of diking or infrastructure acting as a dike in the Valley.

Starting on September 17th, engineering consultants and field crews will begin clearing and mowing vegetation on the top and sides of dikes along the valley. The crews will be inspecting 6.5 km of provincial dikes in various locations.

This inspection program is looking at provincially owned dikes to assess the health and condition that they’re in. The Drumheller Resiliency and Flood Mitigation Office will be working with local contractors and engineering consultants to plan and execute inspection work over the coming weeks.

A condition inspection of provincial dikes is being conducted to determine if maintenance and repairs are required. This also allows us the opportunity to evaluate the condition and assists in determining what our new design will include.

Work is scheduled for the following areas:

  • Dike B (River Grove Campground and Cabins)
  • Dike C (Drumheller North by Travelodge Hotel)
  • Dike D (Badlands Community Facility to Riverside Drive East)
  • Newcastle Dike
  • Midland Dike
  • East Coulee Dike

Inspections began on September 17th and work is expected to be completed by the end of October. Crews are planning to be working weekdays 8AM-6PM, to minimize disturbance and disruption.


Throughout the Valley a lot of the communities were settled and populated well before there were water distribution systems, so most people sustained wells for their homes. The reason they chose areas like Newcastle was that it has very poor soil that allows the river to fill the drinking wells. The neighbourhoods along the river with this great sandy soil everyone loves to build in, also allows seepage. For past floods, we’ve been able to manage seepage by de-watering via pumping. However, a few neighbourhoods in Drumheller can’t keep ahead of seepage, and as such further development can’t happen there.

Overland inundation is absolutely catastrophic. So while we do have seepage in some areas, Newcastle being one of them, if we don’t make the berms higher and water flows overtop, the impact of damage that will happen will be much higher than anything we’ve seen as a result from seepage so far.

The overland flow from floods is much more damaging as it carries debris, silt and gravel. Berms are built to mitigate the risk of overland flooding. It will also moderate the amount of ground water fluctuation due to the flooding waters. The water table will still increase, but not as quickly as it would without a berm in place.

Current diking will be wider and higher. There will be new diking in some of the neighbourhoods that currently have no protection, where structural measures are viable. The land on top of the dikes and in the conveyance area of the river will largely become public spaces and haul routes during emergency response to floods.

The berms will be 6m wide and on average are 1.5m high. The elevation will differ throughout the valley because of the slope of the river. They need to be wide enough to become haul routes and allow equipment to drive on top, in event the berm needs to be elevated beyond this height during a flood event. The berms will be built to withstand a minimum flow of 1640 cubic metres per second (cms) plus 0.75m freeboard. Two of the most significant floods in the valley were the 1915 flood with a flow of 2000 cms and the 2005 flood with a flow of 1450 cms.

The footprint area will vary based on the location and ground elevation where the berms will be constructed. One of the purposes for gaining entry permission to private properties is to further define these designs

Final engineering designs are still being developed for berms. Spring 2021 is the new target for construction as we must include new provincial maps in our designs. We expect the new maps in late fall.

No. While the solution may work in other areas of the province, it is not a consideration for us.

The existing stormwater channels will have back flow devices installed where they intersect the new berms and enter the river. This is a common practice and typical back flow devices can be seen at 12th St West in Newcastle and 25th St NW in Midland.

Yes, on August 11, 2020 Mayor Colberg announced confirmation of the funding. Most projects within the Resiliency and Climate Adaptation System could not start until the funding agreement was signed.

Flood Mitigation Impacts on Land Use

The Municipal Development Plan is the visionary community plan for the Town, it provides high level guidance, goals and policy. The Land Use Bylaw implements the MDP’s goals, it provides detailed regulations on building location, form and use. Both of these are statutory documents under the Municipal Government Act.

A review of these documents was important to help us understand how the river impacts future development for the valley. While we know the river can be a threat to us, for the majority of time, it’s an asset. We need to understand what opportunities it can create for future growth.

Council gave first reading of the proposed new MDP and LUB on September 14. Consultation is underway on the two by-laws featuring a website where residents can provide feedback on the proposed changes. A public hearing is scheduled for both the MDP and LUB on Monday October 26th.

  1. Place the river at the heart of the plan
  2. Understand channel capacity, making room for the river and protecting development with berms creating new public amenities such a public trails, natural spaces and parks
  3. Ensure the views that make the badlands experience are protected
  4. Develop smart and attractive growth areas away from the river
  5. Build upon the unique neighbourhood identities throughout the Valley

O2 Planning and Design (consultant conducting review) found the current MDP lacks a clear vision for the town. It does not seek to connect the community and uniqueness of the neighbourhoods throughout the valley. Current growth areas do not address flood risks and there needs to be a better understanding on the role the river can play as a space, a destination, and a conduit.

In terms of the LUB – it currently has 21 land use districts and it is both complicated and inflexible. The LUB must incorporate regulations around flooding, but the river is completely absent from the current bylaw.

Yes. The MDP sets out new zones; a conveyance zone for the river, a protected zone defined by the structural flood measures and growth area where flooding risk is greatly reduced. Individual property owners may be impacted by the alignment and location of structural measures.

Embedding the river and flood mitigation measures into these planning documents is critical for our resiliency and climate adaptation system. When the river is located at the heart of the planning process, it helps reorganize the Valley into open spaces, protection areas and new growth. All of these components are fully entwined into the flood mitigation program.

These recommendations will provide more clarity and decrease administrative burden, making the development process clearer for both applicants and development authorities. Ultimately, they support our economic development strategy for decades to come.

  • More vision for 20 years, 50 years and 100 years
  • Modernize the Land Use Bylaw by using a layered approach and reducing the number of districts from 21 to 8
  • Decrease administrative requirements
  • Make both the MDP and LUB easier to interpret and administer
  • Recognize the unique form of the neighbourhoods
  • Eliminate parking minimums
  • Reduce bureaucratic burden by focusing on form over use
  • Provide more incentives that invite creative investment

By reducing the number of land use districts we refocus from “use” into “form.” We look at a transect between the most physically intensive uses of the land and natural space where we have almost no development at all. We then find breakpoints within that to define the form we need to see in different areas. Once we have the basic system in place we can apply Valley-wide considerations using layers and overlays.

For example we can take a Badlands overlay, which helps us understand the most critical and visible elements of the Badlands landscape, and we can protect them and start to layer them on which could provide additional restrictions in certain areas. For another example, we can use a neighbourhood overlay to look at the unique characteristics and conditions of each neighbourhood throughout the valley. This overlay may add or remove certain restrictions on properties to allow more flexibility in some areas.

The overlay is a tool that gives us Valley-wide control over some of these factors that we know happen locally without ending up with a land use bylaw that has dozens of districts. It also makes it easier to revise and update those components of the land use bylaw. If there is a new set of mapping or area that requires focus, instead of revising a bunch of districts we can instead revise it all in one place. It makes it a much easier tool, which allows the flexibility and openness that we want, and also links to the intention we have long-term for the Valley.

Development along the river will still be allowed as long as new flood mitigation criteria that will be part of the revised LUB are met. Areas larger than 3.0 acres may have more requirements.

The revised MDP and LUB will provide guidance on where additional trails and paths could be located. A benefit of new and enhanced berms throughout the valley is these public spaces could provide recreational uses to be used by the public.

These class designations are simple notifications of owners who have indicated a desire to have lands developed. The lower the number the more interest has been expressed and the perceived opportunity such as servicing, access and connectivity. It is not an accurate, comprehensive or complete list.

Statutory documents are now being prepared for First Reading at council in early fall. Following first reading, we will seek more public input. The new MDP and LUB should be approved and in place by the end of 2020.

Land Acquisition

We currently estimate approximately 40 homes may be impacted with full or partial property acquisition requests. This will be done in a phased approach. Scott Land & Lease Ltd. will be connecting directly with potentially affected homeowners. Click here to learn more about the land acquisition process.

Land acquisition has started and it will continue over the next few years.

Yes! Acquisition of required parcels or portions will occur in a phased approach. Phase 1 will focus on properties that are in the floodway where no engineering solution can be reasonably implemented to protect them. These properties would have experienced flooding at 1400 cubic metre per second (cms) of flow or lower. Site appraisals for some of these properties has commenced.

Properties or portions of properties that are needed for the improvement or installation of berms will be identified in Phase 2. Detailed designs of structural enhancements are not yet completed. Property owners impacted by Phase 2 will be contacted by Scott Land & Lease Ltd. for entry permission to conduct hydraulic and geotechnical analysis.

Engineers will conduct soil testing to confirm if and where a berm can be constructed and what obstacles may exist such as slope erosion, irrigation systems and vegetation constraints.

As we finalize berm designs for neighbourhoods, Scott Land & Lease Ltd. will be reaching out to impacted property owners. Click here for more details on the land acquisition process.

No. Drumheller Land Corporation is requesting to have vacant possession within 60 days of purchase price.

Yes. Options can be considered to move the house. Up to 75% of the total value will be paid if this option is chosen.

No. In extraordinary circumstances exceptions may be considered once a final purchase price has been determined. This will be dealt with on a case by case discussion with the homeowner.

Drumheller Land Corporation is planning to have vacant possession within 60 days of purchase date.

The land acquisition budget is $20M. The price for acquisitions of required parcels or portions of parcels are determined by a current appraisal.  Click here for the land acquisition process.

The Town will provide one site appraisal. If the owner wishes an additional appraisal to be considered, it will be at the owners’ expense.

No. The Town will not pay for homeowner legal fees.

No. The Province of Alberta has changed the floodplain in the valley several times – no less than four.

The current maps based on 2007 data and published in 2016, don’t just reflect historic flooding in the valley, they also provide a predictive risk analysis to the community, based on modelling of various flow rates. If your home is located in the floodway, flood fringe or overland flow area, this does not mean your property is required for purchase as part of the land acquisition process. Our two priorities for land acquisition are:

  • Phase 1 – properties that are in the floodway where no engineering solution can be reasonably implemented to protect the properties. 
  • Phase 2 – properties that are needed for the improvement or installation of dikes or other structural measures.

However, it does mean that your property requires a berm along the river so your neighbourhood is qualified to be designated as “protected.”

We have commenced with phase 1 land acquisitions. Detailed designs of structural enhancements are not yet completed for phase 2. Property owners impacted by phase 2 acquisitions will be contacted by Scott Land & Lease Ltd., likely by fall 2020. If you are not contacted by Scott Land & Lease, your property has not been identified as part of the land acquisition process as of now. If your neighbourhood is currently protected by a diking system, it is unlikely we will acquire your property. If your property is adjacent to an existing dike, we may need to acquire some portion of the property to enhance the dike. Please reference this website for further details on provincial flood hazard maps. https://floods.alberta.ca

We are not aware of any financial institution denying a mortgage based on provincial flood hazard maps. If you are aware of a situation, please contact our office at ddurnie@drumheller.ca and provide us with the name of the lender and what they specifically denied in terms of a mortgage.

Not yet. Council approved the engineering contract for berm design on August 31, 2020. Engineers will now conduct detailed design work which includes soil testing on public and private land, to confirm where berms can be constructed and what obstacles may exist such as slope, erosion, irrigation systems and vegetation constraints.

Once designs are completed, a map will be published and impacted homeowners will be contacted individually by Scott Land & Lease.

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