$20 million to rebuild land lost to flood
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 14, 2013 08:18 am
After two months of focusing on survival needs from June’s flood, the Province is now putting millions of dollars into preventing a repeat in the future.
The provincial government announced last week it is allocating $20 million in immediate financial support to flood-affected communities to stabilize riverbanks and ensure the safety of residents nearby.
“Time is of the essence,” said Associate Minister for Recovery and Reconstruction of southwest Alberta Kyle Fawcett. “That’s why we’re providing additional funding immediately for the restoration of highly-eroded sites in these communities.”
Fawcett made the announcement in Black Diamond at Vale’s Greenhouse on Friday afternoon. He told Mayor Sharlene Brown, MD of Foothills representatives, Vale’s Greenhouse owner Katrina Diebel and the media that the Province is hiring a panel of engineers from around the world to research flood mitigation projects and will bring their findings to affected southern Alberta municipalities. Details will be finalized in the coming weeks.
Fawcett said the Province wants to look at projects that will protect areas near rivers from erosion during floods.
“We need to determine what kind of mitigation needs to take place to ensure erosion doesn’t happen again,” he said. “If you try to mitigate one certain area there could be consequences downstream. We want to make sure we don’t pass the issue down to the next community.”
Fawcett said the Province will work with municipalities to determine if additional funding is required beyond the $20 million.
“Twenty million is a preliminary number,” he said.
Fawcett said mitigating riverbeds to prevent further erosion could include rebuilding, backfilling, placing rocks and boulders and planting trees.
“It isn’t something to do in haste,” he said. “Long-term mitigation is a much larger project.”
He said a lot of land was lost in the June flood and the province can’t replace or compensate every acre.
Several acres of land were lost along the banks of Black Diamond, including at Vale’s Greenhouse at the north end of town, according to Diebel.
Diebel said the Sheep River moved too close to her business after the June flood washed out several feet of land at the north end of the property.
“My river has moved too close,” she said.
Diebel said this is not the first flood experienced on the property. Flooding also occurred in 1990, 1995, 1996, 2005 and 2007, but this year was the worst.
She estimates the flood to have cost her half a million dollars including structural damage to buildings, loss of business, lost art which was stored at the facility for an art show that weekend, a loss of customers and a loss of plants she couldn’t sell. She said her insurance company will cover about $17,000 of the damage after she pays a $10,000 deductible.
While the Province’s announcement of funding comes as a good start, Diebel said she isn’t sure how much it’s going to help.
“Twenty million doesn’t sound like a lot of money,” she said. “I hope Black Diamond gets the first top of the $20 million.”
Brown said she is happy with any assistance Black Diamond can get from the province.
“The more we can get before next June hits the better,” she said.
Brown said the Town had hired a hydrologist and river engineer, something she hopes will be reimbursed by the Province, to look at the stability of the riverbank and determine what needs to be done to lessen the risk from future floods.
Although the funding comes as good news, Brown is worried about timing.
“I don’t know if it will be done in enough time but we need to have something in place,” she said. “I’ve looked upstream and I have a lot of concerns and I would like to see stuff done but I don’t know if it’s going to be done.”
If mitigation work isn’t complete by next June and the Town receives a lot of rain or runoff, she said the community is in trouble.
“My concern is there is nothing holding back the water,” she said. “There is no river banks, there is no trees, there is no rocks. It will cause bigger damage next time because there is nothing holding the water back.”
Black Diamond resident Gary Reid, who lives along the river and whose house flooded when the Sheep River spilled its banks, also has concerns.
He said with the river now 200 feet wide upstream compared to being just 80 feet at the Black Diamond bridge, spring runoff or heavy rainfall could be even more disastrous next spring.
“I believe this whole area is more susceptible to flooding now because the trees and shrubbery by the river have been taken away by the flash flood and all we have is gravel running the whole distance from the mountains,” he said. “If we get a lot of rain and a good snowpack next June, look out guys.”
Reid, who has a background in a hydrology and was an environment engineer, said the government could save itself money from future floods by putting a berm up around the river from Oilfields High School downstream to Vale’s Greenhouse.
The Province’s announcement of $20 million is in addition to assistance the government is giving affected residents through the Disaster Recovery Program, which helps communities, homeowners and businesses with their uninsured damages.
The Province is also offering financial assistance for lost inventory and reconstruction for businesses, but not business interruption or revenue replacements.