Budget outlines new way of doing business

Changes to flood damage payouts concern Town of Peace River

Susan Thompson
South Peace News

Changes to how flooding damages are going to be paid out in Alberta going forward have Peace River’s town council concerned.

The new provincial budget includes $2.5 billion in contingency funds for disasters and emergencies, but there will also be a new provincial funding cap of $500,000.

And, starting April 1, municipalities and Metis settlements will be responsible for 10 per cent of damages.

Peace River’s council discussed the issue at their March 1 governance and priorities meeting after a phone call with Premier Jason Kenney and new Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver.

“[McIver] indicated that they are going to clamp down on paying out on flooding damages to the point that starting now, it’s going to be limited to one claim per address, which basically says we need to have no more flooding incidences,” Mayor Tom Tarpey says.

Peace River has dealt with multiple floods over the years, with one of the most recent being Pat’s Creek flooding into the downtown core from a manhole.

Alberta itself has also had to pay out for multiple costly natural disasters, such as the Fort McMurray and Slave Lake wildfires and the 2013 floods in Calgary.

Alberta is no stranger to disasters and accounts for six of the top 10 costliest natural disasters in Canada in recent years.

McIver says that a lot of the disaster insurable losses the government has been paying out have been due to communities that have built in flood zones. Tarpey says that the province is focusing on flood hazard and mapping work by Alberta Environment.

However, Tarpey says Peace River is vulnerable to flooding for other reasons.

“I think that well need to push back on this because he’s thinking about big rivers, he’s thinking about direct flooding over non-existent dykes, he isn’t thinking about the indirect impacts of Alberta Transportation modifying ravines, opening up culverts, particularly in adjacent communities that may lead to a rush of waters into another municipality and flooding them out,” Tarpey says.

“This is both a threat and opportunity because I think this is an opportunity to reinforce with Alberta Transportation the work we need to do to put in place [or] artificially reinstate the natural flood barriers that are in some of these ravines that have protected us in the past.

“We’ll have to make that a priority,” he adds.

“My warning flags have gone off around the discussion of flood claims and that side of it. I would really appreciate it if we can get a good clear understanding of what that means,” says Councillor Johanna Downing.

“I think that you’re right we can’t afford to have more flooding in our downtown core, and we understand that there are lots of moving parts that make that a real problem for us.”

Councillor Orren Ford noted that Mackenzie County is getting approximately $17 million for flood mitigation.

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