Premier pleased with flood recovery progress
Flood 2013: Ministers gather in High River to assess rebuilding
By: John Barlow
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 04, 2013 10:18 am
After meeting with her flood task force in High River last week Alberta Premier Alison Redford said she is pleased with the recovery progress to date.
Redford met with her Southern Alberta Recovery Ministerial Task Force in High River on Aug. 27 to assess to progress being made as communities in the foothills rebuild after the flood in June.
Redford said after the meeting good progress has been made in the nine and half weeks since the flood, but there is a substantial amount of work yet to be done and it will take time.
“A lot of the preliminary work in the recovery has been done and what has struck me, not only in High River, but when I go around to the other communities around the province they are starting to move ahead,” she said.
“But when you look to the next layer that’s where the rebuilding begins,” she added. “It is fairly clear there is work that needs to be done for the businesses, the businesses are not open yet and that impacts people every day.”
Redford said the recovery process has gone as expected and it is perhaps further ahead compared to what most people would have estimated. Albertans have worked well together to clean up the debris, identify mitigation priorities and initiate the rebuilding process.
However, the premier cautioned residents and business owners impacted by the flood that getting everyone back on their feet is going to be a grueling process.
“The rebuilding phase is going to be tough,” she said. “That doesn’t make it any easier to say it, but we acknowledge that at the beginning. As we move through and look at people’s lives, particularly the first week of school, Thanksgiving and Halloween coming up, there are going to be these landmark moments that are going to make things tough again and people are having to make some difficult decisions and we understand that.
“We want to be there to provide the information, the financial resources, but it is not going to make their decisions any easier and we appreciate that,” Redford said. “We know it is going to be emotional and we know there is a lot of work to do.”
The premier said she is pleased with the progress of the flood clean-up, but that is not a great comfort to families who are still not back in their homes or are still facing issues associated with the disaster.
“We are committed to getting everyone (where they want to be) and that is the next step,” said Redford.
The work on flood mapping, developing the Disaster Recovery Program (DRP) and presenting various relief programs has been a balancing act according to the premier.
She said it has been important to address people’s concerns and questions as soon as possible, but she said at the same time the task force has had to do its due diligence when developing the aid programs to ensure they are prudent, fiscally sound and successful.
“I think we have been very responsive and I am proud of that,” she said. “We have been able to fine tune policies with respect to DRP entitlement in terms of particular circumstances for certain categories of properties and that is important.
“In terms of the fundamentals, what has been really clear to me is people have been able to see certainty in where we have gone. Certainty is important, because people are making life decisions so we will balance this and we will continue to provide that support to people and ensure they have the information they need.”
As the rebuild process moves forward Redford said communication will be critical and she encouraged residents if they are not getting the answers they need, or wants to verify some information to visit the DRP office in downtown High River.
She said people may not always get the answer they want to hear, but the most important aspect is the fact they have an answer so they know where they stand.
Associate Minister Rick Fraser said there have been some good news stories arising from the rebuild including people leaving the temporary housing and returning to their homes, the river scalping and the partnerships developed between the various levels of government.
Moving forward Fraser said the key will be keeping the lines of communication open.
“This is an opportunity for us to have everybody included to talk about what High River and flood affected areas look like today, 20 years down the road, 50 years down the road for our grandkids,” said Fraser.
“Our challenge now, as a government, is to be as effective as we can to deal with people individually and get them the answers they need and hopefully get them moving back home.”
When asked if the flood maps will be updated before designating which homes are in the floodway or flood fringe, the Province’s disasteGUYSZZ?? said the flood maps will be updated, but it will take time.
He explained before he can update the maps they will need to go through a season to see where the spring run-off will go as it will certainly change as a result of the flood.
“We are going to do all we can to work with the community to everything we can to either mitigate or get stuff out of the floodway if it is a hazard area,” he said.
Getting potentially hazardous material out of the floodway includes homes.
“The government has been consistent. If you are in the floodway that is a problem and we are going to encourage folks to get out of there,” he said.
Once they have gone through another season to see how the river has changed GUYZ said they will begin reviewing the flood maps and update the documents.