Government might buy, not rebuild, some flood-prone homes
Last Updated: Monday, April 20, 2009 | 11:28 AM CT
The federal, provincial and municipal governments are looking to buy out some flooded homeowners north of Winnipeg rather than rebuild their damaged properties.
Steve Strang, mayor of the rural municipality of St. Clements, told CBC News that as many as 17 properties — some that have flooded several times — are being considered in the plan.
'Every time we have a major event like this, there are a lot of people's lives that are put at risk — not only the residents but the fire department, our emergency measures officer, our public works people. Council is saying enough.''—Steve Strang, mayor RM of St. Clements
"I had one gentleman stand in front of me and put up both hands when I asked how many times [he] flooded, indicating to me 10," said Strang. "I think he was kind of joking around but it still was multiple times. I know that since I have been around, [that property has] flooded three or four times in the last 13 years."
Strang said there are not concerns about mould issues in some rebuilt homes, but ongoing concerns about the risks posed to emergency officials when trying to rescue stranded residents.
"Every time we have a major event like this, there are a lot of people's lives that are put at risk — not only the residents but the fire department, our emergency measures officer, our public works people," said Strang. "Council is saying enough."
The cost of building protective dikes around the homes, coupled with the cost of compensating homeowners for the damage, nearly adds up to the same price to buy the homes outright, Strang said.
He would like to see a mandatory buyout program, rather than a voluntary one, but how it would be conducted hasn't been decided, he said.
Post flood review
Government officials from the province and municipalities will conduct a post-flood review in the coming weeks to discuss what could have been done better to prepare and protect properties, said Steve Ashton, Manitoba's minister for emergency measures.
"The challenge for some areas is it's not always possible to do permanent flood protection. Even in the Red River Valley, there were significant problems in a lot of areas," said Ashton.
In Winnipeg, permanent dikes have been erected since 1997 in many areas where homes are in low-lying areas outside of the primary dike system.
Sometimes, however, that is not a possible solution, said Ashton.
"If you have a large dike, it can create significant problems on bank stability, which could create erosion," he said. "We're already talking to municipalities north of Winnipeg because clearly there were homes that were protected to 1997 levels plus two feet … [but] ice jams created historic levels of flooding."
Flood facts of 2009
The 2009 crest of 6.9 m (22.5 feet) at James Avenue in Winnipeg was the second-highest since major flood control works began operation in 1969. The crest was 7.5 m (24.5 feet) in 1997.
The natural peak in Winnipeg, without provincial flood control measures, would have occurred Friday at 10.2 metres, which is 0.9 metres (three feet) higher than the great flood of 1950.
The actual level on Friday was 6.6 metres. That means the flood controls — Red River Floodway, Portage Diversion, and Shellmouth dam — reduced the water levels in Winnipeg by almost 3.7 metres (12 feet), according to provincial officials.