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‘We have to address this’: Saint John councillor calls for flood-prone roads to be raised

Flood-prone roads to be raised, Saint John councillor says
A Saint John councillor is calling for flood-prone roads to be raised in light of this year's massive flooding. Silas Brown reports.

At the peak of this year’s flooding, a couple hundred people were cut off from the rest of Saint John as the surging river submerged roads in several low lying areas of the city for the second year in a row.

One local councillor is saying it’s time to make sure that stops happening.

“We have to address this,” said Ward One councillor Blake Armstrong. “I believe we have to spend the resources to fix the problem once and for all.”

READ MORE: Health and safety inspection teams head to flood-affected zones in New Brunswick

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs has already said that the province would seek federal funding to help raise flood-prone roads, a crucial piece of assistance for any infrastructure project in cash-strapped Saint John.

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The province also announced a buy-out plan for those living in flood-prone areas where structural damage exceeds 80 per cent of the appraised value of the property. Homeowners can either accept the province’s offer for their home or stay and forfeit any monetary flood assistance in the future.

But the plan doesn’t address the many whose homes are safe from flood waters but see themselves cut off every time the river swells past flood stage.

WATCH: New Brunswickers hope flood assistance process runs smoother than last year

New Brunswickers hope flood assistance process runs smoother than last year
New Brunswickers hope flood assistance process runs smoother than last year

Armstrong says keeping the roads open should be even more of a priority after seeing the lack of willingness to obey voluntary evacuation orders.

“It’s all about human lives and emergency. People are always going to stay in their homes. That’s just human nature, nobody wants to leave their home,” he said.

“So in defence of that we have to build this road up and solve the problem once and for all.”

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While mitigation projects are expensive undertakings, according to the executive director of ACAP Saint John, the long-term benefit makes them worth the investment.

“Waiting for those emergency situations maybe isn’t in our best interest and the cost of responding is going to add up to be a lot more than the cost of adapting,” said Graeme Stewart-Robertson.

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“Using the science and best knowledge and traditional knowledge that we have here in New Brunswick to respond today to the problems of the future.”

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READ MORE: N.B. government considering ways to flood-proof Trans-Canada: transportation minister

However, the destructive power of the flooding happening in back-to-back may move more people to consider taking the idea of adaptation seriously.

“With two years of consecutive historic flood levels it’s really opened the eyes of a lot of people to say we need to have these hard conversations,” Stewart-Robertson said.

“Not just about inland flooding but also about sea level rise or erosion or a lot of other constraints that we ignored for a long period of time because there was no pressing need.”

ACAP Saint John is currently working on a climate adaptation plan for the city which is expected to be presented to city council next spring. On Monday, council will also vote on an eight-part climate action plan that includes a climate change declaration.