When Edmonton’s drainage branch is turned over to EPCOR Friday, city council will be looking to the city owned utility for guidance on how to handle an issue that will cost residents billions of dollars.
How much is too much flood protection?
Chris Ward, who’ll become EPCOR’s divisional vice president of drainage operations and construction on Sept. 1, is looking at what’s happening in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in shaping the answer to that question.
“It’s really just sadness and empathy for what they’re dealing with,” he said during a break in city council’s Utilities Committee. “I just feel sympathy for them.”
He said all Edmonton can do is have a plan for a massive emergency and think of all the resources and undertaking that’s needed and the clean up afterwards.
Watching what’s going on in Houston, Texas is something that’s got Mayor Don Iveson thinking more about the problem of balancing the idea of protecting the city for the absolutely worst possible disaster, against being pragmatic about what you can afford.
“These risks ultimately come to people so we’ve got to figure out how to talk to people about what they think the sensible solution is,” Iveson said. “Do you want to pay a ton of insurance? Do you want pay a ton of higher taxes responding to disasters? Or do you want to put more money into right sizing your infrastructure to deal with flooding or whatever the other risk is? The answer is somewhere in all three.”
That’s why Iveson is suggesting a citizens panel be set up to answer those questions.
“It’s definitely going to require some of the deepest public engagement we’ve ever done because these are multi-billion dollar inter-generational questions. But what’s neat is the City of Edmonton is out front asking them.
“We’re not presuming to have the answers ourselves, but wanting to bring people together from industry and from other orders of government and the public to deal with them.”
Ward knows council will be looking to his staff in the coming years.
“It’s definitely going to be on EPCOR Drainage’s plate. It’s definitely going to be part of EPCOR Drainage responding to exactly that question and committee’s question and coming back with a storm-water integrated resource plan and really to say these are the risks, and the level of risks, so yes it is definitely a high priority for EPCOR Drainage.”
“What level of risk do we want to mitigate against and what level do we just say we have to accept. Because you get to a point where can’t build big enough for that amount of rainfall. It just can’t be taken away quickly enough.”