ERVCC Says “No” to Industrializing Edmonton’s River Valley

On June 6, Epcor’s application to rezone 99 acres of river valley land in southwest Edmonton from parkland to industrial comes before City Council.

Epcor wants to erect a fenced solar farm on 56 acres of this riverside land next to the E.L. Smith water treatment plant. It’s unclear what they plan to do with the other 43 acres.

This is meadowland, with stands of poplar. Rather than being turned to industrial use, this riparian land could easily be reforested, improving ecological connectivity and yielding such benefits as carbon sequestration. The land also has historical value.

Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition argues the 99 acres should remain parkland.  

The river valley has been zoned parkland since 1933, when the city formally began to de-industrialize Edmonton’s river valley. 

Putting an industrial development in the river valley would have significant negative impacts. For example, it would:

  • Reduce riparian habitat and resilience to climate change
    Keeping space open along the North Saskatchewan River is a key defense against climate change. Riparian ecosystems are naturally resilient, link aquatic and terrestrial life, and create a refuge where wildlife can adapt to changing climate.

  • Reduce habitat and the ability of wildlife to move through the river valley
    Developing a fenced solar farm next to the river would mean loss of habitat and impairment of the wildlife corridor the river valley provides through the city.

    Current standards call for minimum wildlife setbacks from water’s edge to be at least 500 metres.

  •  Ignore the archaeological value of the land
    The land in question has high archaeological value, being the only known, undisturbed site in Edmonton of cultural artifacts dating back 9000 years. Drilling 5400 piles into the soil to hold up the panels would disturb this site.

  • Impair Edmonton’s iconic “Ribbon of Green”
    Industrializing the meadow, in plain view of the central, river valley multi-use trail system, damages the Ribbon of Green brand so important to Edmonton’s identity.

How did Epcor get this land?

Epcor received this “surplus” land from the City in 2001 for future expansion of the water treatment plant. In 2008, Epcor nearly doubled its water capacity at E.L. Smith plant while only marginally expanding its land base.

It is unlikely Epcor will need the 99 acres for water treatment. Epcor wants to erect a solar farm to satisfy the City’s requirement for renewable energy use, and also because the company will profit from selling the excess energy.  Epcor’s own research shows there are many ways—including buying wind power, and setting up in a brown field—to satisfy the renewable energy requirement. 

Lots of Alternatives

Edmonton has brown field sites suitable for solar, and the City has a grant program to encourage use of brown field sites. 

River Valley Bylaw

Edmonton’s River Valley Bylaw (1985) states major facilities shall not be constructed “unless their location with the River Valley is deemed essential and approved by City Council.” A solar farm is not “essential” when other options exist. The province itself has stated solar farms should not be in the valleys of a “large permanent watercourse.” 

Future needs

Edmonton’s population is expected to double by 2050. Industrializing a large area of river valley land for decades devalues a resource whose importance to the city can only increase. 

What can you do if you agree with our position?

*Please email your city councillor with the simple message “no solar farm in the river valley,” and spread the word to others.  June 6 is the public hearing date. Stay tuned and plan to attend. 

City Council contact information

*Please add your name to our petition to keep this river terrace zoned “parkland.”

Thank you!

Edmonton River Valley Conservation Coalition