Grand Forks residents still struggling with recovery a year after flooding

Grand Forks struggles with recovery a year after flooding
It's been more than a year since devastating floods in Grand Forks, but some businesses still aren't open and some flood victims still don't have homes.

It’s been more than a year since devastating floods cost dozens of people their houses in Grand Forks, and some people still don’t have permanent homes.

“Some people just left the community, left it all behind because they didn’t see that there was a sustainable future here,” said Roly Russell, the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary’s chairperson.

“The businesses that were impacted by the flood, probably about 10 per cent of them are still shut,” he added.

Those that have managed to swing their doors back open have faced a myriad of insurance challenges, Russell said.

“They can’t get flood insurance for a reasonable rate, and so they’re trying to make that impossible decision of, ‘Do I open my business being underinsured, or do I try to sell my business even though it can’t be insured?’”

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READ MORE: Flood recovery, not supportive housing, should be council focus — Grand Forks citizen’s group

Grand Forks Mayor Brian Taylor flagged housing as the biggest problem the city is still facing.

“People are housed in fragile housing around the community — still in people’s yards, in motorhomes, in various other kinds of other not-long-term housing,” he said.

An estimated 35 households are still in temporary accommodation, Russell said.

The city wants to buy out flooded properties but needs either the federal or provincial government to come up with the funding.

READ MORE: Millions spent on Grand Forks flood recovery, but buyout plan still up in the air

While residents in New Brunswick have already been offered a buyout plan, people in Grand Forks are still waiting to hear about federal funding, flood recovery manager Graham Watt said.

“Each of the provinces has a different recovery framework, and the provincial government in New Brunswick had their arrangement set out with the federal government, and they were able to implement them right away,” Watt said.

“Across Canada, there is no unified emergency management and recovery framework, and I think we definitely need to look at better certainty going forward for what types of funding would be available and when.”

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READ MORE: How does Canada mitigate the impact of flooding? Experts say better urban planning

Watt said funding for permanent solutions like buyouts should be available immediately after a flood.

“That would enable people to make that decision and move on, or try and stick around and see what happens next, but that funding could provide certainty right away,” he said.

The province said it supports the community’s application to the federal government for $50 million, which would help cover a buyout plan and flood recovery efforts.

READ MORE: Grand Forks residents face growing frustration and financial anxiety

Emergency Management BC said it has also already given $19 million to the community.

Meanwhile, the uncertainty as residents wait to find out if their neighbourhood will be bought out is taking its toll, according to the mayor.

“The mental health of the community has been affected by the delays,” Taylor said.

WATCH BELOW: Grand Forks Regional Fire Chief Dan Derby discusses what’s been done since last year’s flooding
Extended inteview with Grand Forks regional fire chief Dan Derby
Extended inteview with Grand Forks regional fire chief Dan Derby

Regional fire chief Dan Derby also noted that the flooding has had an impact on responders.

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“We’ve had staff both in 2017 and 2018 in the emergency operations centre and responding in the field, and that cumulative effect on them is also something that we need to support,” Derby said.