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Options to prevent future flood damage

The Disaster Recovery Team for Mackenzie County (DRT), led by Finance Director Jennifer Batt, has been working closely with the Government of Alberta (GOA) to lay the foundation for a Recovery Plan.  The GOA has announced that $147 million of Disaster Recovery Program (DRP) funding will be available for northern Alberta communities impacted by flooding this year. We understand that up to a third of that amount could be available to Mackenzie County, but every proposed expenditure must be identified, researched, budgeted, and approved before the GOA releases funds. We need to develop a comprehensive Recovery Plan that uses DRP funding wisely to provide long-term protection to our residents.

Council has directed the DRT to work with GOA departments that can contribute to recovery planning:

The DRT is working with Municipal Affairs and the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) which oversees DRP investment. Several potential flood mitigation options raised by community members are being analyzed with input and guidance from AEMA personnel. The DRT has submitted a discussion document that:

  • objectively identifies all potential mitigation measures;
  • reviews the benefits and shortcomings of each option with regard to protection of properties, infrastructure and communities from predicted flood events; and
  • determines the ability of each option to meet long-term sustainable outcomes that achieve our goals.

With guidance from the AEMA and input from the community, this will be the foundation for an actionable Recovery Plan that may well include a blended form of mitigation.

Alberta Environment and Parks (EAP) has done extensive flood modelling and is mapping the new flood plain for the impacted areas. Without a final floodplain map, we cannot fully evaluate mitigation options.

The DRT is also working with other governments such as AB Seniors and Housing, AB Health and AB Indigenous Relations to ensure we have the information we need for the Recovery Plan.

Potential mitigation measures include (in no particular order):

  • The base case of rebuilding our communities without mitigation measures;
  • Using natural measures to allow some flooding that releases the energy of the river or ice jams;
  • Building permanent or temporary flood barriers – berms, dikes, water-filled tiger dams, sand bags, etc. – to protect facilities and buildings;
  • Adding reinforcement and elevation to existing structures; and
  • Relocating homes and business in the flood plain that are likely to flood again.

At the Open House on July 21, the DRT explained the mitigation options being discussed with the Alberta Government to help prevent future flood damage to our communities.  The display boards from the Open House can be viewed here.

Council has stressed that the ultimate Recovery Plan must be based on community input and science, not emotion, and that nothing should be ruled out until complete review and discussion with government officials and further resident engagement.  We remind residents that:

  • the GOA, as the DRP funder, makes final decisions of how to wisely invest taxpayer dollars;
  • the DRT does research (including community input), makes recommendations, and builds the Recovery Plan, knowing that actions not approved by DRP would have to be funded by the County;
  • we are competing for funding with many other demands on the government, including
  • the COVID-19 response and re-opening of the economy;
  • other natural disasters and weather events in the province; and
  • a recession that sees Alberta’s budget deficit ballooning from $7 billion to $20+ billion.

We will continue to work hard to keep our residents informed and seek input and ideas as we create a Recovery Plan that includes near-term action and longer-term objectives.  Some things will happen quickly, and other mitigations may take years to complete.