Alberta flood zone development was a mistake, former MLA says
2006 flood report called for the end of land sales in known flood risk areas
A former Alberta MLA who headed up a flood mitigation task force after the 2005 floods says new development should not have been allowed to spring up in the flood zones.
"The one thing they could have done … they should have stopped building some housing and buildings on the flood plains. And that was a strong part of that report," George Groeneveld, who chaired the flood mitigation committee and report, told CBC News.
"If you’re going to build in those areas, you take on the responsibility yourself. That to me was the strength of the report, stop building where we shouldn't be building."
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The 2006 Provincial Flood Mitigation Report, which was just released last year, recommended a cessation of the sale of Crown lands in known flood risk areas.
"Selling lands in flood risk areas is the opposite of flood mitigation," the report stated. "The province loses its say in the use of these lands and any protective measures would need to be taken through cumbersome mechanisms such as legislation or regulations.
"Undeveloped flood plains are the natural and most effective form of flood mitigation, and this recommendation will protect those areas."
Sale of flood-prone Crown lands creates the potential "for increased financial liability for the province in terms of Disaster Recovery Program funding that must outweigh the short-tem financial benefits of the sale," the report stated.
With the demand high to live in such scenic areas, along with a new source of tax revenue from properties, Groeneveld said he understands the pressure on the municipalities to sell.
"Once developers buy that land, it takes real political will from the municipal governments to shut them down and say 'No, you can't do it,'" said Groeneveld, who served eight years as the Tory MLA for Highwood.
The report also recommended that disaster recovery payments for "new inappropriate development in flood risk areas" be prohibited.
"To me that was the real issue with the report, if you’re going to [build there] the individuals themselves are responsible," he said. "When you have a disaster, don't be looking for the government to bail you out when you build in these areas."
As well, the report recommended a notification system be established that informs potential buyers that the property is located in a flood-risk area.
Groeneveld said he was disappointed that the report was never released during his time in government and that by the time it was released it was "so far after the fact that a lot of the report had become redundant."
The report also recommended the completion of flood risk maps for urban areas in the province; a program to ensure those maps are updated; the identification of priority rural flood risk areas that require flood risk mapping; and making historic flood information available to the public on a website.