N.B. recovery starts as flood waters drop
Premier David Alward seeks federal assistance to pay for flood damage
Water levels in the Magaguadavic River are dropping and offering respite to residents affected by the southwestern New Brunswick flood, according to the Emergency Measures Organization.
Karl Wilmot, an official with the province's emergency response organization, said the river was down about two metres on Thursday morning.
"That is a good situation for us. We're hoping that the stress is relieved for the people down there today," Wilmot said.
Emergency officials said later Thursday that the St. John River system had crested, and they didn't foresee further flooding below Fredericton.
"Downriver from here beyond Maugerville into Jemseg, we expect the water to fluctuate," Wilmot explained.
"We don’t at this time anticipate that flood levels are going to be reached anywhere along the system from Maguerville, Sheffield on down to Saint John, but of course, as always, that is completely weather dependent."
Wilmot said early weather forecasts indicate that water levels throughout the province will continue to drop.
"The weather picture for the foreseeable future into the weekend is looking good in relation to precipitation and that type of thing," he said.
By Thursday afternoon, 275 people had already called to register for disaster assistance from the provincial government.
Of those, 37 were displaced from homes in the St. George area, and another seven from the Nashwaak Valley area.
Wilmot said he's unsure when people will be able to return to their homes, particularly in the Bonny River area.
"I have not in recent history seen anything like that," he said of the flooding in the Bonny River area.
Water from the Magaguadavic River hit the westbound lane of Route 1 in the St. George area on Wednesday, and a major stretch of Manor Road in the town had only accessible by boat.
By Thursday afternoon, Bonny River was no longer completely cut off. Emergency measures officials said water had receded enough to reopen one route. Rick Doucet, the Liberal MLA for the riding that includes many of the hardest-hit areas, said he was on boats that were travelling around the flooded region on Wednesday.
He said he was bringing people food and helping others get to safety.
"No time is a good time to have a flood," Doucet said.
"Here it is two weeks before Christmas, when people are trying to get through Christmas as it is, having this turn their lives upside down, that is the hardest part."
What will make it more difficult for many people is the fact the damage is coming in winter. When there is flood damage in the spring, Doucet said, people have many months to fix the wreckage.
He said people will have a difficult time repairing some of the damage before the snow and temperature begin to fall.
The aftermath of the torrential rains caused more than 120 roads to be closed across southern and western parts of New Brunswick.
Highway crews were in Bear Island to fix a section of Highway 105 between Fredericton and Nackawic.
The floodwaters tore away all the dirt and gravel from sections of the highway. At one section, only a hanging guardrail shows where a stretch of road once crossed the St. John River.
Transportation Minister Claude Williams said the timing will also affect his department's ability to repair roads and bridges around the province until winter ends.
"We will bring them to a level where they're secure and people will have access," Williams said on Thursday.
"And in the coming spring, we will continue to finish the work that needs to be done."
Maurice Albert, a member of the New Brunswick Road Builders Association, said roads will not be able to be fully repaired for several months.
"Certainly, you can't lay asphalt at this time of the year in terms of to get the best results," Albert said.
"So, for now, they will just have to make the roads passable."
Federal funding sought
Premier David Alward toured the flood-stricken area on Wednesday. He said he flew over Bonny River and said the devastation could not be described.
"We moved quickly yesterday to come forward with [disaster assistance] programming for people who were affected," Alward said.
"It will not be easy. My heart goes out to the families and the communities."
The premier said it is too early to estimate how much it will cost to rebuild the homes and roads that were damaged by the flooding.
He said it is clearly in the millions of dollars but an estimate would not be available until recovery teams can get into the areas to assess the damage.
Alward said he spoke with federal cabinet ministers Keith Ashfield and Peter MacKay on Wednesday to discuss federal funding to help clean up after the flood.
"Actually both ministers, Ashfield and MacKay, made contact with us. They were very good about dealing with things," he said.
"There is a process that we have to go through but we thought it was important to get it up and operational as fast as possible."
Depending on the size of the damage, Alward said the federal program could recover as much as 90 per cent of the repair bills.