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A public interest review of a proposed reservoir that could protect Calgary from future flooding has begun.

The hearing by the Natural Resources Conservation Board, which is an arm’s-length agency of the Alberta government, is expected to last up to 14 days.

It will determine whether the project is in the public interest by looking at its social, economic and environmental effects.

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Alberta Transportation, which has proposed the project, has started the hearing with its opening statements.

Officials say the reservoir, which would divert water from the Elbow River, is a direct response to the massive flooding in Calgary in 2013.

They note that flood led to five fatalities and more than $5 billion in damages across southern Alberta.

“In Calgary, the flooding of the Bow and Elbow rivers resulted in some 88,000 people being displaced, 14,500 homes damaged, 3,000 other buildings flooded and 4,000 business damaged,” said Matthew Hebert, executive director of the Springbank off-stream reservoir project and an employee of Alberta Transportation.

The reservoir has faced stiff opposition from some landowners, who would prefer another site further upstream so as not to affect their properties.

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

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