The Town of High River has decided to buy out one neighbourhood badly hit by flooding and return it to its natural state.
Wallaceville was one of the hardest hit areas during the flooding last June that caused widespread damage in the town south of Calgary because it sits at a critical choke point along the Highwood River. The area has repeatedly flooded.
Flood mitigation measures so far:
The removal of the CP Rail bridge.
Erosion protection of the Highwood River near the rail bridge.
Scraping debris from the Highwood River.
Protecting the bank of the Highwood River in northwest High River.
Repairing, raising and reinforcing dikes in High River.
Raising 498th Avenue north of High River.
Raising and reinforcing the left bank of the Little Bow Canal.
High River Mayor Craig Snodgrass says council agreed returning the community to an undeveloped area will allow engineers to widen the river channel, eliminating the chokepoint and providing a greater degree of flood protection for the entire town.
“The 2013 flood disaster and the uncertainty that has followed for many of the town’s citizens have been extremely difficult,” he said.
“The decision to return Wallaceville to an undeveloped state was not taken lightly, however, we do believe it is the responsible direction to take, and we know that the property owners need a decision so they can move forward.”
Reiley McKerracker, manager of engineering for High River, says a 3.2 metre-high dike would have to be built around Wallaceville to help protect it.
Municipal Affairs Minister Ken Hughes confirmed provincial support for the town council resolution.
The properties to be included in the Wallaceville naturalization are those contained between Lineham Canal and the main channel of the Highwood River along and east of Centre Street.
Property compensation will be based on 2013 municipal tax assessments, but details on the property purchase program will be available in January.
But the idea of being forced to leave isn't sitting well for some homeowners.
Victor Dyck rebuilt his Wallaceville home after the flood. He says he is waiting for more information about what kind of packages will be available.
"It would be very tough to [take the buy out] because it's a wonderful neighbourhood and we love the house, something we've invested a lot into, so it would be very hard to give all that up."
“I realize this was a tough decision for the town to make, but it’s really the only option if we want to help protect High River in future floods. I support the courage and vision shown by the mayor and council,” said Rick Fraser, associate minister of recovery and reconstruction for High River.
The Town of High River will try to contact residents and building owners by phone, email or notices delivered to doors in the Wallaceville area. Those not occupying their premises located in the area are encouraged to contact the town with their current contact information by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 403-603-3583.