The Bow River – A River Recreation Plan is Needed


A year ago the  AEP-CRUA Joint Technical Liaison Group was convened to address our concerns about the impact of the Bow River water management policy on a declining trout population. We believe the group discussions and outcome have been successful, with a better understanding of the many variables that impact the scope of our discussions. From the CRUA perspective there were three issues that we believed needed to be addressed:

  1. Scientific Assessment of Fish Population Declines:  The cumulative effect modeling undertaken by the fishery management biologists has laid the groundwork for fishery management directives. Although there are challenges ahead to define the relationship between river flows, phosphorous, dissolved oxygen, sediment biomass content, and invertebrate populations, changes to fishing regulation to protect a vulnerable fishery are being considered for 2022.
  2. Short-Term Water Flow Management Change: The modified Bow River water management policy that had been in place since 2014 and renewed for a further five years in 2021 has created some degree of frustration within the fishing community. The daily flow discharge forecasts being made available to river user groups in recent years have been useful. And outside of natural flow variants, TransAlta has been able to stabilize flows in 2021 within a complicated water management policy.
  3. Bow Basin Future Water Management Policy: The Bow Basin Water Management Options to improve flood and drought protection continues to be controversial, especially any new dam additions in the future. We are encouraged to see that alternatives to the Bow Reservoir Options are being considered.

Although the fishery and water management discussions have been encouraging, the importance of the larger scope of river recreation activity has not seen the same recognition it deserves as an important driver to our economy. The importance of river recreational use is driven by the proximity to rivers and lakes, and therefore the Bow River Basin has become a focal point for outdoor pursuits in Alberta.

As Calgary’s population grows the need for expanded river recreational infrastructure is paramount to meeting a younger generation’s outdoor pursuits expectations. The attached document, The Bow River – A River Recreation Plan is Needed   reviews the CRUA  position as it relates to recreational river use. Our experience with the engagement process within government agencies has generally been good, but at times there is a common thread in a reluctance to engage on a multi-disciplined ministry and departmental basis to resolve issues. The need to establish a “Bow River Basin Recreation Management Plan” to address the more complicated issues focusses on four discussion points within the document; the economic contribution to the local economy, the river access, the water management, and fishery management policies are each important within themselves. But are dependent on each other for a successful rollout and implementation of policy.

It is with this in mind that CRUA believes that a Bow River Basin Recreation Management Plan is needed to integrate resources from all levels of government into a central agency that can better identify needs, policy, and directives to meet the challenges to enhance the recreational use of the Bow River Basin. Within itself, a river recreational plan would address many of our concerns, but to implement its finding within the larger scope of the Bow River Basin watershed management policy could well be a challenge.

We believe that the AEP  Water Management Department is positioned to advance a river recreational management initiative as a part of watershed management policy. CRUA is  hoping that they will take up the challenge in the coming months