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Ontario government announces new pilot program to help protect communities from extreme weather

Ontario government announces new pilot program to help protect communities from extreme weather
WATCH ABOVE: The Municipal Disaster Recovery Assistance program will provide eligible communities with up to 15 per cent above the estimated cost of rebuilding damaged public infrastructure to make it more resilient to extreme weather.

The Ontario government announced a new $1-million pilot program on Thursday that will provide financial assistance to eligible municipalities facing high costs for emergency response and repairs after a natural disaster.

“This spring, we saw the devastating effect of flooding in many Ontario communities,” Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark said in a statement. “We want to help municipalities build back better.”

READ MORE: Reality check — Will Ford’s budget cuts affect relief for Ontario’s recent flooding?

The Municipal Disaster Recovery Assistance program will provide eligible communities with up to 15 per cent above the estimated cost of rebuilding damaged public infrastructure to make it more resilient to extreme weather.

Some examples could include raising roads to provide better overland flow of water, improving the columns or footings of bridges or increasing the size of ditches and catch basins to increase their capacity to hold water.

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Communities affected by the spring flooding that occurred after March 1 are eligible for the enhanced funding under the pilot.

READ MORE: City of Ottawa lifts state of emergency declared in April due to floods

“We know that some municipalities have limited financial resources to improve local infrastructure,” Clark added. “By not having to rebuild the same washed-out road or bridge again and again, communities will save money over the long term.”

This past spring, several Ontario communities were under states of emergency due to flooding, including Ottawa, Bracebridge, Huntsville, Minden Hills, Mattawa and others.

“Given that we’ve had two ‘100-year’ floods in a few years, I am pleased that we are going to support municipalities to redesign and rebuild essential municipal infrastructure so that it will be better able to withstand future flooding,” Norm Miller, MPP for Parry Sound-Muskoka, said in a statement.

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Flooding event causing delays, cancellations of Toronto Islands events
Flooding event causing delays, cancellations of Toronto Islands events

From late April until mid-May, three of six Muskoka municipalities — Bracebridge, Muskoka Lakes and Huntsville — were under declared flooding emergencies, with water levels exceeding those of the 2013 floods.

“Our government’s Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan supports updating government policies to improve climate resilience,” Miller added. “This is something our local mayors and I raised with the minister a few weeks ago.”

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READ MORE: The worst of the Muskoka floods is over, but residents still grapple with the aftermath

Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith said in a statement that the town applauds the provincial government for setting up the new pilot program.

“The opportunity to improve the quality of municipal infrastructure impacted by a flood or other significant weather event saves time and money and allows municipalities to better manage their finances in the long term,” he said.

Since this year’s floods inundated many Ontario communities, the provincial government also created an internal task force that heard directly from people in flood zones. The engagement sessions were held in the Muskoka region, Pembroke and Ottawa in May.

The government also recently conducted an online survey to identify ways to help make communities more resilient to flooding.

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Bracebridge homeowner talks about flooding impact
Bracebridge homeowner talks about flooding impact