Flood Risk: A Community Conversation

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Flood Risk: A Community Conservation

On April 26, 2020, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo suffered a flood to the 1-in-100 year elevation. Structural flood mitigation is built and designed to the 1-in-100 year elevation, however unpredictable ice jam floods occurred in many low lying neighbourhoods.

The 2020 flood had many far-reaching negative impacts on the region – it affected more than 1000 buildings and properties across different areas in Fort McMurray. For many people, the recovery and cleanup process is still happening.

This flood was one of the most significant in our region’s recent history. We are at a very important point in time

On April 26, 2020, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo suffered a flood to the 1-in-100 year elevation. Structural flood mitigation is built and designed to the 1-in-100 year elevation, however unpredictable ice jam floods occurred in many low lying neighbourhoods.

The 2020 flood had many far-reaching negative impacts on the region – it affected more than 1000 buildings and properties across different areas in Fort McMurray. For many people, the recovery and cleanup process is still happening.

This flood was one of the most significant in our region’s recent history. We are at a very important point in time, where we must take steps to make our neighbourhoods and communities safer while reducing the likelihood of flood risk in the future.

At first glance, this may seem like a near-impossible job. But it’s not. We are already doing many things to make our neighbourhoods safer as part of our flood mitigation strategy. But we have realized that this may not be the only solution that will enhance safety.

This is a conversation that involves all people and businesses in the region. We encourage all residents and property owners to participate in the various engagements through this website.

  • Ptarmigan Court Home Raising Program Homeowner Guide

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    Following Council’s direction in December 2020, the Municipality began offering voluntary buyouts to all Ptarmigan Court property owners at the 2020 assessed property value and last month Council approved the Ptarmigan Court Home Raising Program. Today, we are sharing the details of this Program.

    Click here to view the Homeowners Guide, which provides further information and specific details on the Program.

    Please note that the current deadline for the Ptarmigan Court buyout program was May 31, 2021 and the deadline to opt into the Ptarmigan Court Home Raising Program is June 30, 2021. These deadlines are currently in effect, however recognizing the needs of property owners, Administration will be seeking an extension from Council on June 8, 2021 to extend the deadline for both programs to July 30, 2021. Should Council approve the deadline extension, we will notify residents to provide an update on any decisions made during the public meeting.

    If residents are interested in more details regarding the Home Raising Program, please email recovery@rmwb.ca to schedule a pre-application meeting with RMWB staff.

    Reminder that the Municipality has partnered with the Government of Alberta and the Canadian Red Cross to offer additional guidance. Residents may contact the Red Cross directly for more information by calling 1-800-863-6582, Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. or email: albertadrphelp@redcross.ca. Email is the quickest way to reach the support team, but both options are available to you. Please note: the Red Cross can assist residents regardless of their claims or interactions with the provincial government’s Disaster Recovery Program (DRP).

    Should you have any questions regarding the buyout or raising structures grant program, you are also welcome to contact the Municipality directly at recovery@rmwb.ca, pulse@rmwb.ca or by calling Pulse at 780-743-7000.

  • Permanent Structural Flood Mitigation Update

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    In Longboat Landing, berms at the 1-in-200-year flood level are being built, with a target completion date of Oct. 15, 2021.

    In the downtown area, berms and elevated roads at the 1-in-200-year flood level are being built, with a target completion date of Oct. 15, 2022 for all flood mitigation.

    In Waterways, elevated roads at the 1-in-200-year flood level are being built, with a target completion date of Oct. 15, 2022, and in Taiga Nova, a berm at the 1-in-200-year flood level is being built.

    More details are provided in this reach-by-reach overview. A map of the permanent structural mitigation works can be found here.

  • May 7, 2021 Update

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    River breakup declared

    RMWB thanks community for support keeping neighbourhoods safe during flood season

    River breakup has been declared today, May 7. This means there is no longer a significant risk of ice jams causing flooding along the Clearwater and Athabasca rivers in Fort McMurray and surrounding areas.

    “On behalf of the Municipality, I’d like to thank everyone who helped prepare for river breakup and the community for their support accommodating temporary flood protection measures, helping keep neighbourhoods safe,” said Matthew Hough, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer. “Protection of life and property will always be the top priority and although this year we experienced more of a thermal breakup, flooding caused by ice jams is impossible to predict and we need to be prepared every spring. We are already in the process of reviewing our river breakup preparedness plan so we can improve efficiencies, reduce inconveniences and begin planning for next year.”

    Stay away from riverbanks

    Although the risk of flooding is reduced, riverbanks remain dangerous due to fast moving water. Anyone taking part in activities near rivers should exercise caution and keep a safe distance from shorelines.

    Removal of temporary flood mitigation

    Crews have already started removing equipment and temporary flood mitigation to begin cleaning up and reopening areas as soon as possible. Clearwater Drive is expected to be fully reopened by May 28 or earlier.

    Triple dams are being inspected, properly stored and will be available for future use. The clay from the temporary berms is being used for permanent flood mitigation projects this summer.

    All environmental and regulatory requirements as well as public health measures continue to be followed during the removal of temporary flood mitigation.

    For everyone’s safety and to assist cleanup efforts, please follow all posted signage, keep a safe distance from equipment and do not enter closed areas.

    Construction of permanent flood mitigation

    Even though river breakup has been declared, the work to reduce flood risk continues with multiple mitigation projects scheduled for this summer. Mitigation projects offer a significant return on investment. For every $1 invested in mitigation, $7 to $10 can be saved in post-disaster recovery costs, according to Public Safety Canada.

    Find more information on flood mitigation projects at rmwb.ca/construction.

    Free sandbag disposal

    The sandbag program is now closed. Over 25,000 sandbags were provided to residents and businesses.

    Beginning next week, filled sandbags may be dropped off free-of-charge in Waterways at the corner of Bulyea Ave. and Park St. The opening date for the drop-off location will be announced shortly. The drop-off location will be available seven days-a-week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., for three weeks from the opening date. Further updates will be provided once available.

    All sandbags dropped off in Waterways are being brought to the Municipal landfill, where the bags will naturally deteriorate, and sand will be repurposed for other uses.

    After the drop-off location closes, sandbags may be brought to the Municipal landfill for disposal.

    Store sandbags properly

    Community members can retain, and reuse filled sandbags in the future, but they must be stored properly to prevent damage. Sandbags can be stored inside or outside but they must be protected from the sun, rain and snow. If storing outside, it’s recommended to place sandbags on a pallet and cover them with a waterproof and UV resistant tarp.

    For more information on river breakup, visit rmwb.ca/riverbreakup.

  • March 9, 2021 Update

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    Longboat Landing

    Fontaine Crescent is partially closed for flood mitigation construction. Access to homes will be maintained. Construction will be complete by April 1 and road closures will be removed once river breakup is declared. Please be mindful of workers and equipment in the area. Residents along the green space should expect to see Triple Dams – temporary flood mitigation structures – directly behind their homes.

    Ptarmigan Court

    Parkview Drive will be partially closed for flood mitigation construction. Access to homes will be maintained. Construction will be complete by April 1 and road closures will be removed once river breakup is declared. Please be mindful of workers and equipment in the area. Residents that back onto Saline Creek should expect to see Triple Dams – temporary flood mitigation structures – directly behind their homes.


    Map of road closures for river breakup


    For up to date news and information about flood recovery, including 2021 temporary flood mitigation updates, go to www.rmwb.ca/recovery

  • February 25, 2021 Update

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    Flood Recovery Update – Draper

    Surveyors are out in Draper as part of Council’s December 15, 2020 Resolution to determine the feasibility of a grant program for lot-by-lot individual flood mitigation. Surveyors do not need to enter homes but will be surveying land throughout the community.

    The latest flood recovery information is at rmwb.ca/recovery. The next update to Council on flood recovery is tentatively scheduled for March.

  • January 13, 2021 Update

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    Opportunity for buyouts or raising homes in Ptarmigan Court is open

    Property owners in Ptarmigan Court are asked to call in or email to state their interest for a property buyout or raising their home as part of the flood recovery process. Direction to move ahead on these two options was provided at the December 15, 2020 Council meeting.

    Property buyout

    Property owners may email pulse@rmwb.ca or call Pulse at 780-743-7000 for more information and to start the process. Buyouts are authorized at the 2020 assessed value, which are available on the website.

    Raising homes

    Property owners who do not choose the buyout may express interest in a grant program to raise their residence instead. The proposed grant program, including potential funding opportunities, will be presented for Council consideration at a later date.

    Email pulse@rmwb.ca or call Pulse at 780-743-7000 to begin the process. The same deadline of May 31, 2021 applies.

    Temporary mitigation

    Temporary flood barriers will be placed in the Ptarmigan Court area prior to river breakup this year. Beyond 2021, no flood mitigation is currently planned.

    More information is available at rmwb.ca/recovery.

  • December 18, 2020 Update

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    With the conclusion of the December Special Council meeting, additional and continued flood mitigation strategies and new flood recovery supports were approved by communities impacted by the 2020 floods.


    Draper

    • Administration is determining the feasibility of a grant program for lot-by-lot flood mitigation solutions for properties where the underside of the main floor joists are below 251m.
    • Administration will limit development below 251m and introduce enhanced flood provisions in the Land Use Bylaw for development above 251m.
    • More details will be shared in 2021.

    Ptarmigan Court

    • A voluntary buyout program will be offered until May 31, 2021, at 2020 assessed values.
    • The option to raise homes to 250.9 metres will be offered until May 31, 2021.
    • More details will be shared in early 2021.

    Waterways

    • The previously approved berm at the 1-in-200-year flood level will be built with a target completion date of October 15, 2022.
    • Administration will limit development below 250.9m and introduce enhanced flood provisions in the Land Use Bylaw for development above 250.9m.

    Downtown, Longboat Landing, Taiga Nova

    • Previously approved berms at the 1-in-200-year flood level will be built Downtown, at Longboat Landing and at Taiga Nova.
    • The berms at Taiga Nova and Longboat Landing have a target completion date of October 15, 2021, while the downtown berms have a target completion date of October 15, 2022.
    • The Downtown berm will further enhance the existing 1-in-100-year flood level berm already constructed and protecting a portion of Downtown.

    Backwater valve program

    • A backwater valve grant program will be introduced on March 1, 2021.
    • Up to $1500 will be available to complete eligible work.
    • In the Flood Hazard Area, as designated by the Province of Alberta’s Flood Hazard Map, up to $3000 will be available to complete eligible work.
    • More details will be shared in early 2021.

    Temporary mitigation

    • Temporary clay berms were built downtown, in Waterways and at Taiga Nova.
    • Details about a sandbag program will be shared in early 2021.
    • A public tender package for temporary flood barriers closed on December 15, 2020. The barriers will be in place prior to river breakup in 2021. More details will be shared in 2021.

    Municipal infrastructure preparedness

    • During the 2020 flood, three gates at the water treatment plant failed. When the water level rose, river water bypassed these gates and mixed with potable drinking water. These gates have now been repaired.
    • Short-term repairs and mitigation measures coupled with longer term process, equipment and training improvements for municipal infrastructure will help to reduce flood risk in 2021 and beyond.


    To view a summary of the results of the December 15, 2020 Council meeting, please visit here. The video and minutes of the meeting are available at rmwb.ca/council.

  • December 4, 2020 Update

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    Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo staff will be updating Council on the resolutions made at the September 15 Council Meeting at a Special Meeting to be held on December 15 at 1 p.m.

    Updates will include:

    • Infrastructure performance
    • Temporary flood mitigation for 2021
    • Public engagement
    • Community-specific updates

    The Agenda for the Special Council Meeting is expected to be published on Friday, December 11 at rmwb.ca/council.

    Engagement feedback from the one-on-one engagement held between September 28-November 27 will be included in the Agenda for public record. The report can be found in Library tab on this website.

    Property owners in flood-affected communities are encouraged to review the information in the Agenda when it is published and participate in the Special Council Meeting by registering as a delegate.

    Thank you for your ongoing participation in this process. We look forward to building a more resilient region together.

  • October 14, 2020 Update

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    Community engagement about flood risk is continuing with property owners in Waterways, Ptarmigan Court and Draper.

    • Visits to properties in Waterways below 250.9 m will began last week
    • Visits to properties in Ptarmigan Court will start this week
    • Visits to properties in Draper below 250.9 m will start later in October

    “It’s our goal to engage one-on-one with property owners in Ptarmigan Court, as well as property owners below 250.9 m in Waterways and Draper before December,” said Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Matthew Hough. “We are appreciative of the many residents that have already participated in engagement. We need as much dialogue as possible for our next update to Council, so we encourage all property owners to participate.”

    All property and land owners in Ptarmigan Court as well as owners below 250.9 m in Waterways and Draper should call or email Pulse at 780-743-7000 or pulse@rmwb.ca to validate contact information and schedule a one-on-one engagement.

    One-on-ones can occur in-person, over the phone or electronically.

    Contact methods

    Outreach will be attempted in the following ways:

    • Door-to-door visits
    • Phone (if phone number has been shared)
    • Email (if email address has been shared)
    • Registered mail to property and land owners, including out-of-town owners
    • Electronic signage
    • Social media messages
    • Website content

    Licensed surveyors out in all three communities

    Licensed surveyors will be out in Waterways, Ptarmigan Court and Draper starting in mid-October to validate property elevations. Surveyors will require access to some homes. A municipal representative will reach out if access to your home is required.

    COVID-19 precautions

    One-on-one engagements will be conducted in line with all provincial COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

  • September 22, 2020 Update

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    After several days of questions, debate, and public feedback, Council voted to complete berms where feasible and directed more research to be done in Draper and Ptarmigan Court. For Waterways, residents will be engaged on the idea of land swaps below 250 metres.

    “The actions directed by Council will reduce flood risk in Fort McMurray over the long term,” said Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Matthew Hough. “Work is underway on temporary flood mitigation measures for next spring and on berms for Taiga Nova, downtown, Longboat Landing and Waterways. I would like to thank everyone who participated in the Council meeting and look forward to further engaging with property owners in Ptarmigan Court, Waterways and Draper.”

    Actions by community

    Council met for several hours a day between Tuesday, September 15 and Friday, September 18 to provide the following direction:

    • Taiga Nova: Complete the berm to the 1-in-200-year flood level by October 15, 2021, limit development below 250 metres and introduce enhanced land use provisions above 250 metres.
    • Ptarmigan Court: Conduct one-on-one engagements with residents to determine whether buyouts, funding to raise properties to 250 metres or land swaps would work best.
    • Downtown: Complete the berm to the 1-in-200-year flood level by October 15, 2022, limit development below 250 metres and introduce enhanced land use provisions above 250 metres. Additionally, advocate on behalf of residents to the province and the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).
    • Waterways: Complete the berm by October 15, 2022, limit development below 250 metres and introduce enhanced land use provisions above 250 metres. Additionally, engage on the idea of land swaps below 250 metres and advocate on behalf of residents to the province and IBC.
    • Draper: Conduct one-on-one engagements to gather information, including property elevation, administration is engaging on other forms of flood mitigation. Additionally, advocate on behalf of residents to the province and IBC.
    • Longboat Landing: Complete the berm to the 1-in-200-year flood level by October 15, 2021, limit land development below 250 metres, and introduce enhanced flood provisions for land use above 250 metres. Additionally, advocate on behalf of residents to the province and IBC.

    As well, on the final day of the meeting, Monday, September 21, Council voted to:

    1. Seek further flood mitigation funding from the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada, and report back to Council during the quarterly financial report with a buyout impact assessment, financial report, and updated planning and infrastructure recommendations for communities impacted by the 2020 flood.
    2. Send letters and conduct a strategic advocacy campaign to the federal and provincial governments advocating for assistance with flood mitigation costs and that Administration report back to Council publicly during the quarterly financial reporting, and that the advocacy campaign be funded by any operating surplus or emerging issues.
    3. Actively investigate and pursue the use of equipment, similar to the Amphibex program, and report back to Council with a recommendation by June 2021 on whether or not a pilot project is recommended for the Municipality.
    4. That Administration arrange a meeting within the next 30 days between Council and OSCA to discuss synergies to address the flood mitigation projects to protect the community from future flooding events.
    5. Refund permit fees for work done in the Mandatory Flood Evacuation Zone and purchased after the August 31, 2020 expiration of the Flood Recovery Response Bylaw. The refund is at the request of the applicant.

    Council meeting information agenda and information is available at rmwb.ca/council. Flood Recovery information is posted at rmwb.ca/recovery.