Foothills towns get millions for flood repairs
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 18, 2013 08:38 am
Foothills communities facing millions of dollars in damage are getting much-needed financial relief this month.
The provincial government wrote $27 million in cheques to six municipalities affected by the flood that swept through southern Alberta on June 20 to help communities pay for clean up and uninsured damage to infrastructure. Black Diamond received $7 million, Turner Valley $5 million and Okotoks $2 million.
The $7 million awarded to Black Diamond covers costs to pipe water from Turner Valley after the Sheep River washed away the town’s water treatment plant.
After running a fire hose from the Turner Valley water treatment plant, a temporary above-ground pipeline was constructed in July and a permanent underground pipeline should be complete by mid-October, said Black Diamond Mayor Sharlene Brown.
“I’m very excited about it,” she said. “We’ve gone from a fire hose to a temporary line to a permanent line.”
Brown said the Town is just starting to tally its other flood-related expenses including repairing the campground, dog park and for berm stabilization adjacent to the river.
“The only thing that we submitted and got approval for at this point in time was for the pipeline,” she said. “Our first priority was to ensure we had water to our residents.”
Brown said the Town recently contracted someone to tally the other costs.
“We haven’t got a cost estimate yet of what the cleanup is going to be because we didn’t have someone totally dedicated,” she said. “Now that we have somebody I’m sure they’ll be moving along fairly quickly.”
In the meantime, the Town hasn’t had to dip into its own money for cost recovery associated with the flood, Brown said.
The $5 million awarded to Turner Valley covers a number of projects including piping water to Black Diamond, additional staffing and repairs to the Decalta Bridge and berm, said Mayor Kelly Tuck.
Tuck said the Town already spent $1 million in flood recovery and she is glad to see those bills paid.
“We asked for the five million knowing we could be more just because of the projects going forward,” she said. “There still needs to be some mitigation further down by Dogtown and trees need to be cleaned up. That’s another conversation that we need to have with the minister.”
As for receiving financial support, Tuck said she had no doubts.
“There was a commitment right from the get-go from our Premier and she has been true to her word to this community,” she said. “Minister (Kyle) Fawcett has been amazing. Anything I’ve asked for he’s ensured this town has received.”
Fawcett, the associate minister for recovery and reconstruction in southern Alberta, said he is working closely with municipalities to identify their needs and provide financial support.
“I’ve been very conscious to get to each and every community that’s been impacted by this and see what their unique needs are,” he said. “The flood recovery task force has been moving very fast. We are quite pleased with the progress we made in a number of communities.”
Fawcett said the Provincial treasury board approved $1 billion in flood recovery and assistance is expected from the federal government.
“There is no doubt there is likely to be more support to come if it’s needed,” he said. “We need to look at what can we do in the immediate term that will help us protect those communities for next year, but what do we need to do in the longer term with a larger event to help mitigate and protect communities.”
In Okotoks, the $2 million it received pays for damage to infrastructure and Town property caused by the flood.
The Town estimates $4.2 million in damages and asked the Province for half up front.
Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson said the Province came through for the Town.
He said safety is the Town’s top priority. While it may be nice to get some things like the Spoilers Field baseball diamond repaired, he said it’s not as important as ensuring pathways are safe for people to use and river banks have been stabilized.
“We’re trying to make the river valley safe,” said Robertson.
He said Okotoks will get the remaining funding requested as work is completed and the Town submits claims to the provincial government.
Robertson said the Town submitted a list of 16 repair projects to the Province. The biggest bill will be for repairs to Sheep River Park, which is expected to cost $1.6 million. Other projects include $450,000 to replace a water well lost to the flood, $300,000 to rebuild all pathways lost to the flood, $342,000 for repairs to the Okotoks Lions Campground and $300,000 to repair erosion along the Sheep River east of the Okotoks Public Library.
The town took more than $300,000 out if its reserve funds to pay for work done to date. Robertson said the Town will use some of the $2 million to replenish its reserves.
“The reserves are earmarked for certain things so when we use some of the reserves, that’s only temporary,” he said. “We’ll definitely put some of that money back in reserves.”