Residents left scrambling after Quebec bans rebuilding in high-risk flood zones

Some Quebec homeowners and municipalities affected by severe spring flooding are scrambling after the provincial government announced this week it will enforce rules to forbid rebuilding in areas at a high risk of flooding.

Province says it will strictly enforce rules spuring anger, uncertainty

Hélène Guilbault and her husband Andrei Medvedev worry they won't be able to carry out rebuilding their home on Île-Mercier. (CBC)

Some Quebec homeowners and municipalities affected by severe spring flooding are scrambling after the provincial government announced this week it will enforce rules to forbid rebuilding in areas at a high risk of flooding.

Environment Minister David Heurtel said Thursday the move to prohibit rebuilding homes that were completely destroyed in zones that are likely to flood once every 20 years is necessary to protect homeowners but some residents say now they don't know where they stand with repairs.

"I mean we're really tired and we're sort of at the end of a long marathon," said Hélène Guilbault. "We're at the finish line and we get this news out of nowhere."

After being forced to flee low-lying, flood-stricken Île Mercier, Guilbault and her husband Andrei Medvedev haven't been able to return home since early May after seven feet of water seeped into their basement and damaged the foundation.

The couple have been through a flurry of paperwork since then in order to pass an inspection, receive quotes for repairs and secure a permit to rebuild as early as next week.

The flooding forced Helene Guilbault and her husband Andrei Medvedev to flee their home. Their foundation is completely damaged. (CBC)

Guilbault and Medvedev only bought their house less than a year ago, but now they are unsure whether or not they will be able to keep it.

"I think that people who live here should be given the chance to keep living," Medvedev.

The government's announcement comes as a hard blow since Guilbault also found out this week she may not be able to keep her job at Sears Canada after the chain announced the closures of 59 stores across the country.

For now, the couple will wait to act until they know more from the province.

"We'll see things as develop," said Guilbault. "We're waiting again. Since May 7th, it's always one thing after another — just waiting, waiting, waiting. Waiting for the money to come in, waiting for everything."

Questions left unanswered

Richard Lehoux, the president of the Quebec federation of municipalities (FQM), said the province should have consulted with flood-stricken towns about not allowing homeowners to rebuild and about updating flood maps later this year.

"Where will we be relocating these people?" he said, adding that many residents were concerned.

A total of 278 municipalities were affected by flooding this spring, forcing more than 4,000 people from their homes.

The Quebec government will not allow residents in 20-year flood zones to rebuild. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The government estimates that between 500 to 800 homes are completely destroyed, but it's still not clear how many of those homes are located in high-risk areas.

For Lehoux, he said that the province hasn't yet shared details on how to accommodate residents who may not be at all able to return home. The government plans to hold public consultations in July and Lehoux expects there will be many questions.

"What we need is answers for our residents as quickly as possible," he said. 

With files from CBC's Sarah Leavitt, Elias Abboud and Radio-Canada