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Province holds information session on flood recovery program

Fort Macleod residents whose homes and property flooded last month can learn more Wednesday, July 24 about disaster recovery plans and flood mapping.
An information session is from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday at the Coast Hotel in Lethbridge.
“We know flood victims have many questions following the announcement of our new flood rebuilding policies,” said Rick Fraser, one of the associate ministers of regional recovery and reconstruction. “We’re committed to answering as many as we can and will be holding open houses to bring our experts directly to residents in the impacted communities.”
The sessions will provide more answers on the government’s new flood rebuilding policies.
Provincial experts in areas in flood mapping and the disaster recovery program will be available Wednesday.
Under a new policy announced July 14, flood victims living in floodways will have the choice to relocate or rebuild using money from the disaster recovery program.
People who rebuild in floodways will not be covered by this program in the event of a future flood, while residents living in flood fringe areas will receive future compensation for damages only if they rebuild with specific flood-proofing measures.
Flood victims living in floodways will be assisted if they wish to move out of flood risk areas.
Additionally, the province will amend legislation to prohibit municipalities from allowing future development in floodways.
“We are working hard to bring clarity to home owners still dealing with this disaster,” Fraser said in a news release. “I’m asking home owners with flood damage to please be as patient as possible.”
The province will give disaster recovery money to every home owner whose residence was damaged in the flood.
People who use the disaster recovery program to rebuild their homes in a floodway will not be eligible for future disaster recovery money.
Disaster recovery program money is also available to people in a flood fringe area whose homes were heavily damaged.
This additional money must be spent on approved flood mitigation measures to protect against a 1-in-100 year flood.
Home owners in a flood fringe area who do not implement mitigation measures to protect against a 1-in-100 year flood event will not be eligible for disaster recovery program funding in future floods.
Residents who use approved flood mitigation measures will be eligible to receive disaster recovery program funding for any future flood that exceeds the 1-in-100 year flood event criteria.
Mayor Shawn Patience said Friday the town has questions about the area designated by the province as floodway and flood fringe in Fort Macleod.
“We’re not sure exactly what dating the Fort Macleod map has,” Patience said. “That’s really the issue they’re going to have.”
Patience said the province’s flood map appears to be outdated. The map used by the government is dated 1995-2012 but does not seem to match Fort Macleod’s overhead photos from 1995.
“I understand the need to try and mitigate disasters caused by flood,” Patience said. “We’re familiar with it here. As long as I can remember we’ve been protecting one riverbank or another.”
Patience said the challenge is to determine what is a 1-in-100 year flood. The extent of flooding seems to shift from event to event.
“The gauge seems to be constantly moving,” Patience said.
The Town of Fort Macleod in recent years has discouraged people from building in low-lying areas.
“That’s always a challenge,” Patience said of ruling against such applications. “People have lovely property in the river bottom and want to build or expand. We recognize the challenge.”
Patience said the challenge going forward is to determine what is the flood plain and flood fringe.
“I can see a number of appeals coming, even if the province passes the legislation, from people who believe the flood mapping isn’t accurate.”
Patience expects the Town of Fort Macleod will be represented at the information session at Lethbridge.
“The goal here would be to protect people and property,” Patience said. “I don’t know that you can mitigate every risk . . . Mother Nature will have her way.”
The information session in Lethbridge is the fifth in a series. Sessions have already been held in High River, Medicine Hat, Calgary and Canmore, with more planned in Bragg Creek on Thursday, July 25 and Turner Valley and Black Diamond on Friday, July 26.

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