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Harvie Passage Overview
A pdf file containing greater detail about the project's inception and benefits.

Archive materials, including technical reports & engineering drawings, are available on request from Myrna Dubé, President, Parks Foundation Calgary.

Frequently Asked Questions
What is a weir?
Where is the Calgary weir?
What are the planned modifications?
What will it look like when complete?
Why modify the weir?
Who is paying for it?
What if I fall into the water?
What about parking?
What will happen to the pelicans?
When will the project be complete?

What is a weir?
A weir, also known as a low head dam, is a structure across a river that causes river water to back up and pool behind the structure. This build-up of water may be used for power generation or recreation, but in Calgary, the purpose is to divert water from the Bow River into a canal system that provides irrigation water for agriculture. The weir performs an important task, but as a side effect it creates a powerful recirculating hydraulic wave, known to rescue professionals as a “drowning machine.”

Where is the Calgary Weir?
The weir is located on the Bow River slightly downstream of the Calgary Zoo, Fort Calgary, and the confluence with the Elbow River. It is slightly upstream of the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Blackfoot Trail. The weir is visible from Memorial Drive at Deerfoot Trail or from the pathway system.

What are the planned modifications?
By constructing rock structures below the weir, the water level will be backed up to eliminate the deadly recirculation. The backed-up water will drop over a series of short swifts followed by calm pools. Using an existing small island below the weir, the river will be divided into two channels: a gentle channel to the south (river right) and a more challenging channel to the north (river left). Signage and design features will be used to encourage people floating down the river to use the south channel. More advanced canoeists and kayakers will be able to practice their skills on several waves on the north channel. Fish will also be able to travel up and down both channels, and features will be included in the area to allow school groups to learn about local ecosystems and to enjoy recreational opportunities.

What will it look like when the modifications are complete?
When the weir modification is complete, it will look like a natural section of the river. Most of the materials used to enhance the area will be underwater. The banks and riparian areas will be replanted and landscaped to look like natural shoreline. The entire revitalized weir area will complement the existing Pearce Estate Park Interpretive Wetland and Sam Livingston Fish Hatchery facilities, which are on the south shore of that section of the Bow River.

Why modify the weir?
The modifications will create a new river amenity that complements the surrounding park amenities and eliminates the severe drowning hazard. It will improve fish and wildlife habitat and continue to divert water for irrigation.

Who is paying for it?
The Province of Alberta built and owns the current weir. The weir needs to be modified so it is safe and ecologically functional, while providing recreational opportunities and a healthy environment for people and fish. The estimated cost of the weir project is $6.4 million. The parties contributing to this cost are: the Province of Alberta through the Alberta Lottery Fund ($3.4 million), The Calgary Foundation ($2 million), and The City of Calgary ($1 million).

What if I fall into the water?
Presently, a fall over the weir would almost certainly lead to death. Once the modifications are in place, falling into the water above the weir will be like falling into other sections of the Bow River. There will be areas of faster water separated by slow, deep pools from which most people can easily swim or walk to shore. As on the rest of the Bow River, all river users need to be aware of the hazards of falling in.

What about parking?
Most people using the revitalized weir area will simply be passing through on a longer trip from some point upstream to a destination further downstream. The City of Calgary is currently conducting a study of all possible parking and access options in the area, in conjunction with other stakeholders and adjacent facilities and attractions.

What will happen to the pelicans?
Recently, pelicans have been congregating near the weir because fish cannot pass the structure and are trapped there. For the birds, it’s an “all you can eat buffet.” Modifying the weir will allow fish to easily move up and down the river, helping them to flourish, and a healthy fish population is also good for pelicans! After the weir’s reconstruction, rather than finding an unnatural concentration of pelicans in this small area, it is likely that the pelicans will disperse further up and down the river.

When will the project be completed?
There are strict Fisheries & Oceans Canada guidelines on the time of year when construction work is allowed in the Bow River. The current construction schedule is envisaged to start in July/August 2007 and be complete in the spring of 2008.

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