Province reveals details on flood funding
Alberta: High River mayor wants timelines for projects
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 19, 2014 06:00 am
The provincial government has committed more than a billion dollars to continue rebuilding after last year’s flood, and to protect against future disasters
The Province provided details last week about how it plans to spend the $1.1 billion earmarked for flood mitigation, ranging from erosion control and protecting bridges to completing flood maps and mental health programs to support families.
“People need to see we have the resources available to work on mitigation; we have a plan and the funding shows we are committed to that,” said Kyle Fawcett, associate minister of recovery and reconstruction for southwest Alberta.
The budget includes $1.1 billion in operational expense and capital spending over the next three years for flood recovery and mitigation initiatives, with $518 million in 2014-15 alone.
The Province will earmark $32 million for flood mitigation; $28 million for property tax relief; $35 million to complete the floodway relocation program. As well, it will provide $25 million for flood recovery erosion control grants; $3.5 million to complete and update flood hazard studies and maps; $36 million for flood mitigation for roads and bridges and $9.7 million for water and wastewater management projects.
An additional $800 million will be spent on DRP initiatives in 2014, including repairs to infrastructure and assistance for property owners.
The funding is on top of the $3.8 billion approved for flood recovery in 2013.
Fawcett said the provincial government is working as fast as possible to complete flood mitigation projects.
“We know we will not get everything done, but this is a long-term plan and a lot of the larger projects will not be done, but there are a lot of tweaks we can do. We know there are things we can do in the short term and we are working as hard as we can to get those things done.”
While Fawcett would not provide details on specific projects, he said flood protection is being considered for facilities like the High River Hospital and the Medicine Tree Manor in High River and a berm is proposed along Highway 22 to protect Black Diamond.
He said the Province has also streamlined the approval process for a quick turnaround on erosion controls for Three Point Creek to help protect homes in Millarville.
MD Reeve Larry Spilak said the MD is pleased at how the Province has responded to the flood and supported recovery efforts in the foothills.
“There’s no question the Province and the federal government are certainly stepping up to the plate, it’s something we need as municipalities,” he said.
The MD has applied for $27 million in funding from the Flood Recovery and Erosion Control program. Spilak said the MD has already received word it will receive $16 million to cover eight projects on its list and he doesn’t see any indication the rest won’t be covered.
High River Mayor Craig Snodgrass said there has been progress in High River and he’s pleased to see the funding announcement. However, he wants to know timelines for flood mitigation projects, particularly those planned along the Highwood River upstream of town.
“Money’s wonderful, but I need action,” said Snodgrass. “And, it’s happening. You look around High River, look at what’s happening with the berms and dikes and our infrastructure, there’s a great commitment to that.”
Patrick Gall, Alberta Municipal Affairs spokesperson, said the Province has set a target to get 90 per cent of files finalized and any that are not completed by then won’t be closed.
“It’s not a deadline, it’s not a cut-off date,” he said.
Gall added people will always have the right to appeal the DRP decision on their case.
So far, more than 4,500 payments totaling more than $46 million have been issued to individuals through the DRP. The Province is also working to reduce the number of DRP applications facing a hold by insurance companies. There are currently 850 files are currently on hold. This number is down by 60 per cent reduction from the start of December.
Gall said it was taking a long time to confirm what damage insurance companies were covering and the Province has brought in additional resources to address the problem.
“We have to make sure they’re not eligible for insurance under their insurance company, because if they are then obviously we’re not going to provide that financial assistance to them because they’re covered somewhere else,” he said.