Arbitration granted to High River flood victims

Residents living in one of the communities hit hardest by the June floods say a court ruling is a small victory in their bid to get fair compensation from the province.

Judge tells province to submit to arbitrated settlements for Hampton Hills and Sunrise homeowners

In the early stages of the flooding in High River, officials decided to build two berms to help control the water but it ended up sitting in the area for weeks. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Residents living in one of the communities hit hardest by the June floods say a court ruling is a small victory in their bid to get fair compensation from the province.

For several months the province has been avoiding arbitration with residents in High River who say their homes were sacrificed to save other parts of the town south of Calgary.

Berms were built around Hampton Hills and Sunrise to contain the water, and more water was pumped in from other communities. Residents were kept away from their homes for close to a month, which made it difficult to rebuild with mould and other health concerns.

Many of the homeowners wanted government buyouts, but were told their homes were not eligible because they were not in the floodway.

Denise James-Pelley says after getting no response on buyouts from the province they went to court.

"The legal advice that we received was that in these unique circumstances the law of Alberta obligated the province to compensate us for the damage their actions caused us for [being] sacrificed — which is what was said on the tape — we were sacrificed to save other areas," she said.

The tape she is referring to is from a private meeting between officials and residents one month after floodwaters ripped through the community.

"We had to sacrifice your area to try and get the other ones de-watered," Darwin Durnie, who was hired by the province to manage emergency flood operations in High River, said to the gathered crowd. 

On Monday, a judge ruled the province must enter into arbitration with the affected homeowners.

About 18 families from Hampton Hills and Sunrise in High River are involved in the case.

"Water levels went up after the flood. We were held in and contained. Waters that were contaminated by E. coli, and even worse, for those 25 to 30 days and we're just seeking to be treated fairly," said Hampton Hills homeowner Greg Tymchyna.

Residents have been told the arbitration process could begin as soon as January. 

The province says it won't comment because the matter is still before the court.

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