Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Inner-city river communities say flood policies unfair 
Neighbourhoods band together 

Concerned with maintaining the integrity of their communities, a group of inner-city residents are hoping the provincial government will review what they feel are punitive flood mitigation policies.

The Calgary River Communities Action Group formed last month after a jam-packed community meeting July 24 at the Glencoe Club. There, residents expressed their concern and anger over the province’s disaster recovery program and required flood mitigation standards, said founding member Tony Morris.

Morris and four other community members representing inner-city neighbourhoods including Sunnyside, Erlton, Mission, Elbow Park and Rideau-Roxboro started the group to have a “constructive dialogue” with the government about their concerns. More than 100 people have signed up to volunteer, and there are more than 500 people on the group’s subscription list.

“That their first policy seemed to be very punitive of people who lived in the floodway and people who lived in the flood fringe was very upsetting,” said Morris, a Roxboro resident and local lawyer.

One of the group’s chief concerns is the province’s announcement it will place a notice on a person’s land title if the property is in the floodway or flood fringe, if that property owner used disaster recovery program funding to rebuild or repair their home. According to the province, the notice will be removed for property owners in the flood fringe who have completed the necessary flood mitigation measures.

Emma May, a realtor and fellow founding member, said these notices are unnecessary, and wrong. 

“Anything that sets you up for ineligibility for future disaster funding — we just think that’s fundamentally wrong and we don’t think that’s the direction the government should go in,” she said, adding that flood maps are publicly available and rules around disclosure of flood mitigation measures already exist.

“Homeowners already have huge burdens.”

Some of the group’s other concerns surround the types of material allowed and prohibited for flood mitigation and whether the province will undertake any upstream flood mitigation or prevention measures. 

Morris said upstream flood mitigation is the “only solution” to a future flood disaster.

Looking forward, the group also plans to explore whether overland flood insurance should be adopted in the province.

The group has met and spoken with provincial officials a number of times since the flood to address its concerns, and May said the response has been encouraging.

“They’ve really come forward and stepped up,” she said. “They’ve sent the right people to meet with us.” 

The group met last week with Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths as well as Andre Corbould, the chief assistant deputy minister for the Alberta Flood Recovery Task Force. Corbould said the meeting helped the province understand some of the community’s concerns.

“It was a productive dialogue from my perspective,” said Corbould, who added that provincial staff will consider the concerns as they review their policies. He will meet again with the group later this month.

“We’ll certainly consider what they’re asking us to consider,” he continued, noting that the province is doing the same in “almost every community” affected by the floods.

May said the group’s efforts will continue as more information emerges about flood recovery. She worries that some of the province’s policies might discourage people looking to move to the riverside neighbourhoods, and that some existing residents will want to leave.

“The biggest thing we want to accomplish is just the preservation of our communities as we knew them,” she said.

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