Alberta government outlines policy for building in flood-prone areas

EDMONTON- After some of the worst flooding Alberta has ever seen, the province is restricting development in flood-prone areas.

Legislative changes this fall that will prohibit municipalities from approving development in floodways, the government announced Sunday.

And while the province says it’ll provide funding to rebuild homes in flood-prone areas, homeowners living in flood fringe zones who do not take steps to mitigate their risk will take on all future damages.

Floodway zones are those where flows are deepest, fastest and more destructive. New development is discouraged in the floodway, the province said.

Flood fringe zones are those where water is generally shallower and flows slower then in floodway zones. The province says new development in the flood fringe may be permitted in some communities, but should be flood-proofed.

“No eligible homeowner with flood damage will go without financial support. But when we’re using Albertans’ tax dollars, we need to empower those receiving funds to make responsible choices,” said Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths, who is also the Chair of the Ministerial Flood Recovery Task Force.

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These measures were in a flood risk report following the 2005 floods. The report sat on the province’s desk for years: It was published last year but as the province was once again hit with torrential floods last month, the province said work on the recommendations was still in progress.

The following policies were announced Sunday and will be implemented by the provincial government, when it comes to rebuilding:

  • Buildings in Flood Risk Areas: For homes located within a floodway, there will be funding available through the Disaster Recovery Program for homeowners to rebuild or relocate to a new location outside flood-risk areas. There will also be funding available through the same program for specific mitigation infrastructure that will protect buildings within a flood fringe area.
  • Extra money for flood mitigation: For heavily damaged homes requiring major repairs or complete reconstruction, homeowners in flood fringe areas will be eligible for additional funding through the Disaster Recovery Program, on top of the disaster recovery assistance for eligible expenses. This additional money must be spent on approved flood mitigation measures. Mitigation measures will be approved if they are sufficient to protect against a one-in-100 flood event.
  • Future coverage: Homeowners in a flood fringe who do not implement mitigation measures to protect against a one-in-100 flood event will not be eligible for Disaster Recovery Program assistance in the event of future flooding. Residents who undertake approved flood mitigation measures will be eligible to receive Disaster Recovery Program assistance for any future flood that exceeds the one-in-100 year flood event criteria. Homes and businesses currently in floodways, and those who utilize provincial Disaster Recovery funds, will have a notation on their land title to ensure that future owners of the property are also informed.
  • Future development in floodways: Municipalities will no longer be allowed to approve future development in floodways. Municipalities will be consulted in the coming weeks on these changes, and the province says it will account for unique circumstances some municipalities face.

“We want to give Albertans with flood-damaged homes the information they need to make choices to get their lives back on track. We also want to ensure we’re spending responsibly and doing everything we can to prevent flood damage like this from happening again,” Griffiths said.

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“These are crucial decisions for the future of our province and the safety of our citizens,” Griffiths said in Calgary Sunday morning. “There will obviously be significant and extensive questions concerning the implementation of these policy directions. Our government has made good progress in flood-mapping municipalities most prone to flooding, and that work continues.”

The province says these new policies align with federal flood assistance programs and bring the province in line with Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, which have policies on development in flood-prone areas.

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