River Road residents face tough choice
Flood 2013: Provincial minister says Province wont pay for protection in floodways
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Wednesday, Jul 31, 2013 06:00 am
Before last month’s flood devastated High River, it hit the River Road area to the west, wrecking havoc to the homes and farms in its path.
As residents work to rebuild, they are also facing a tough decision. They could get provincial help if they decide to move or receive financial assistance to rebuild their damaged homes, but if they rebuild they will never be eligible for similar funding again.
It’s not an easy decision for Hendrik Greidanus, co-owner of the Greidanus Honey Mill.
He said they would likely choose to stay and protect the property from future flooding.
“We’ve been here for 37 years,” he said. “What we’ve invested here, even with assistance, can’t be replaced. Our priority would be to work on levels of mitigation so that damage would be minimized.”
The River Road area follows the south side of the Highwood River to the west of High River. It is populated by acreages and some agricultural operations, many of which are in the river’s floodway.
Under new rules for the provincial disaster recovery program, owners of homes in the floodway will have to choose between either moving or rebuilding with provincial assistance only to not receiving additional help in the future. As for homes in the flood fringe, owners will need to take steps to protect their homes from flood damage to be eligible for financial help in the future.
Greidanus said it looks like the honey farm is in the floodway.
He said he doesn’t think the provincial government would provide much financial assistance for the business to move.
“The cost for us to move would be huge,” said Greidanus. “From what I understand is it’s just assistance, it would provide the exact same thing we have elsewhere. With the infrastructure we have invested into this property, I don’t think their assistance would cover that.”
Greidanus said he would like the Province to help provide financial support for flood mitigation for residents in the area.
He said there was a foot of water on the property during the flood, but there wasn’t much damage.
“It was just a lot of mud and cleaning up we had to do,” he said. “The buildings were minimally impacted. Our processing equipment was not impacted at all.”
However, he said the farm lost almost 300 hives along the river.
Further west along the road, acreage owner Dann Bews said he would stay and look at ways to protect his home and prevent damage in the future.
“I have a pretty big piece of property,” he said. “It would be pretty hard to replace that.”
The 15-year River Road resident said he had about two feet of water in his basement.
Bews said the provincial policy is fair, however, he wants to see the Hoeh Dike, west of High River, extended to protect properties along River Road.
River Road resident Chris Wilson said he would also like to stay and will try to do what he can to protect his home. He built his home with the potential for flooding in mind – on a concrete slab without a basement. However, he said the new policy could decrease the value of his property if he chooses to stay.
Wilson said he now feels a little abandoned by the Province.
“That to me is probably the worst sin the government did to me personally was that I built according to their standards and criteria, but now they could slap that on me that we’re in a floodway and no bank’s going to touch a mortgage on (his property),” he said.
Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths said the Province’s plan gives people choices for how to move forward with their lives.
He said people in floodway areas will be eligible for disaster funding like anyone else, but only once.
As well, Griffiths said the Province will not pay for mitigation measures in floodway areas.
“You cannot mitigate when you’re in the floodway, that’s the fast moving destructive water where you’re pretty much guaranteed you’re going to have pretty regular flooding,” he said.
MD Coun. Ralph Nelson said new provincial rules for rebuilding in flood areas sounds drastic, but are probably needed. He said people will ultimately have to make a difficult decision.
“It’s certainly going to be difficult for people to make that decision, but some of these properties are just threatened to a point now that giving people that option is something they haven’t had before,” he said. “That will be up to each individual property owner to make that decision.”
Nelson lives west of the River Road area close to the Highwood River. His home is in the floodway, but it’s also located behind the Hoeh dike and, as such, he said it gets a degree of protection.
Nelson said his home can be largely kept safe from flooding because it was built on a concrete slab without a basement and has a berm on three sides.
“We’re pretty confident we can protect our home,” he said.
Nelson said his home didn’t see much flood damage and he doesn’t plan on seeking provincial assistance.
He said the MD is looking at hosting a meeting for River Road area residents to discuss the flood and recovery efforts.