Flood fiasco a failure to learn lesson

A flood mitigation report done for the Alberta government after severe flooding in 2005 states that it would cost $306 million

By MARY-ANN BARR

Red Deer Advocate columnist

A flood mitigation report done for the Alberta government after severe flooding in 2005 states that it would cost $306 million in 54 municipalities to implement all the recommendations.

That’s a lot of money.

On Monday, Premier Alison Redford announced $1 billion in emergency funding to begin the long recovery process from last week’s unprecedented flooding.

That’s a lot more money. We can be sure it won’t be enough.

This will by no means be the final tally on the flood damages, which were suffered most dramatically in Calgary and High River.

Albertans will rally, and all this tragedy and destruction will one day come to pass — until the next time.

And that’s what the 2006 Provincial Flood Mitigation Report: Consultation and Recommendations was intended to help with — the next time.

The flood mitigation report contains 18 recommendations. It was released just over a year ago, on a Friday before the August long weekend. That’s six years from the time it was completed to the time it was released.

Anyone who has ever paid attention, or worked in media, knows of the offensive practice of governments often releasing controversial information late in the day, and often late in the week, and that often those who should speak to the matter are “gone for the day.”

More offensive, though, is when government fails to act, for the most part or at all, on its own recommendations that are in the public interest.

The recent huge rainfalls coming as they did, dumping so much rain into the mountains and foothills, it was evident we were in for some bad weather and high water.

But no one foresaw how quickly that water would come down rivers, causing historical overland flooding.

For the most part, Red Deer dodged that bullet, and we are fortunate now to be able to turn our attention to helping other Albertans south of us.

We’ll never know how implementation of the recommendations from the flood mitigation report might have reduced damages from this flooding disaster of 2013, but surely they would had some positive impact.

Here are some of the report’s common-sense recommendations:

— A notification system be established that will inform any potential buyer that the property is located within a designated flood risk area.

— Disaster Recovery Regulations be amended to prohibit disaster recovery payments for new inappropriate development in flood risk areas.

— (Alberta Environment) make historic flood information available to the public on its website. Suitable information would include historic high-water elevations, flood risk reports, and flood photography.

— The flood mitigation strategy includes a cessation of the sale of Crown lands in known flood risk areas.

— The 2005 overland flooding, which had a bigger impact of Red Deer than last week’s waters, was then the worst natural disaster in Alberta. The province paid out $165 million in disaster service payments. In total, about $400 million in damage occurred.

Flooding tends to be the most costly and far-reaching natural disaster. Thus, it makes sense that flood mitigation should be a priority but the Alberta government’s response by way of implementation to its own flood mitigation report has been minimal. The report is as relevant today as it was after 2005. And it will be next year. Read it at: www.aema.alberta.ca/images/News/Provincial_Flood_Mitigation_Report.pdf

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