Alberta flood-area building rules may change, says Redford – Province may adopt new legislation after massive flooding in Calgary, High River

CBC News

Posted: Jul 11, 2013 3:51 PM ET

Last Updated: Jul 11, 2013 7:42 PM ET

The Alberta government may adopt new rules to deal with building in flood-prone areas, Premier Alison Redford said Thursday.

“It doesn’t matter where you live in this province, we cannot continue, as a provincial government, to say to people, ‘It’s okay to build in a floodway’ — it’s not the right decision,” said Redford.

“We think that if people have the information with respect to that they’ll make constructive choices, take responsibility for their life and move ahead.”

The premier insisted decisions should be made quickly so residents have the information before rebuilding.

Funding to rebuild

Redford said the province has been clear from the start that its disaster recovery program will provide funding for uninsurable losses.

The province pledged up to $10,000 for flood victims to rebuild homes and lives, but says there could be more in the future.

“The $10,000 is an initial payment,” said Redford. “People should not assume that is all they are going to get.”

She said the province handed out more than 36,000 prepaid debit cards to flood victims around the province, worth a total of $62 million.

High River recovery

Redford also addressed recovery efforts in High River, Alta. — one of the communities that was hit hardest by the June 20 flooding.

The provincial state of emergency ends Friday, but Redford said the town will still be under a local state of emergency as it rebuilds.

Much work is still needed, but the local government can now lead the effort, she said.

“I’m very confident moving forward that tomorrow morning, people can continue to know that all the systems are in place that are going to ensure that everything carries on as effectively as it has before.”

Rebuilding underway

The Town of High River was also given $50 million to keep essential services up and running.

Redford said 90 per cent of High River residents are now back home.

She said the roughly 20,000 tonnes of garbage removed from flood-damage houses is equivalent to the amount taken out of the community in the last 10 years.

Associate Minister Rick Fraser and other provincial officials appointed to flood recovery will remain on the ground in High River to provide support to the town in its rebuilding efforts.

Volunteers still needed

Redford said there is still a critical need for volunteers to help clean up the flood-ravaged community just south of Calgary.

Roughly 15,000 volunteers have responded to the call so far, according to the Mission Possible organization that has been on the ground in High River since July 1.

The group says it is waiting for a further assessment of homes affected by flooding to begin a new phase of recovery. Many of the group’s volunteers are also heading to Siksika Nation east of Calgary today, which was also devastated by flooding.

Members are currently helping companies collect the garbage removed from homes, which litters the streets of the community. Volunteers are asked to report to the High River rodeo grounds to check in and receive a safety orientation.

Insurance apology

Major insurance companies continue to have a change of heart, after earlier rejecting residential flood claims.

The latest, AMA Insurance, took out a full-page newspaper ad today to apologize to its customers. It says it is reversing some of its claim decisions.

High River homeowner Deborah Spence is relieved AMA Insurance has softened its stance. Her family learned yesterday afternoon that the company had reconsidered and will now cover them for damage caused by a sewer backup.

“It’s an absolute disaster that … the province has never seen the likes of,” she said. “That was the basis on which they took a closer look and have approved us for sewer backup.”

Other insurers to recant include the Royal Bank of Canada and TD Insurance.

Provincial financial support

The province committed an initial $1 billion to support the recovery efforts and provide financial support to municipalities and First Nations that experienced uninsurable infrastructure damage. That money is also to cover costs incurred for emergency operations and response.

There were 28 local states of emergency in place at the height of the flood. That number has now dropped to six.

The province says disaster recovery program centres, which opened rapidly in communities across southern Alberta after the flood devastation, will remain open to address the needs of every flood victim.

The disaster recovery centres in High River located at the Welcome Centre at the High River rodeo grounds and Foothills Youth Foundation are open until July 16.