British Columbia

Grand Forks votes to buy out entire neighbourhood after major flood

When the Kettle River overflowed its banks in May, the neighbourhood of North Ruckle in Grand Forks was hit the hardest.

62 homes from the North Ruckle area will be affected as well as 16 from South Ruckle

A combination of river water and sewage swamped the Ruckle neighbourhood in Grand Forks. Council has announced it intends to buy out all 62 properties. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

When the Kettle River overflowed its banks in May, the neighbourhood of North Ruckle in Grand Forks was hit the hardest.

Now, following a closed-door meeting, city council says it has decided the best way to protect the 62 homes that comprise North Ruckle is to tear them down.

"This neighbourhood, at the confluence of the Kettle and Granby Rivers, is really affected by future floods and would be really difficult to guard against," said Graham Watt, the flood recovery manager for the Kootenay Boundary district.

He told Daybreak South host Chris Walker that city council intends to develop a plan to buy out the 62 properties, as well as 16 properties in South Ruckle, so they can move to safer areas.

"We need to find immediate solutions," said Watt, adding that 60-80 residents need to be moved into homes before winter, as they've been living in RVs, uninsulated cabins and hotels since the flood.

Grand Forks still inundated with water on May 18, 2018. Council also intends to raise some homes, build new dykes and reinforce river banks. (Regional District of Kootenay Boundary )

'The safest options rather than the cheapest'

Council came to its decision after recommendations from an independent engineering report prepared and reviewed over the past four months.

"We're working on making this process as least destructive as possible," said Watt.

Watt says city council has requested all affected homes be evaluated at their pre-flood value.

Along with the buyout, council also approved:

  • Building three new dykes.
  • Raising houses.
  • Reinforcing several kilometres of river bank.
  • Assisting residents with finding new places to live.

Watt says project costs are estimated at $60 million with the potential to jump to $90 million.

Grand Forks Mayor Frank Konrad said in a statement "council had to make a tough decision."

"Residents needed us to look out for their best interest. We chose the safest options rather than the cheapest, because we never want to repeat the flooding we had this year," said Konrad.

Many homes were inundated with waist-deep water tainted by raw sewage. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Who will pay?

With a potential budget close to $100 million, Watt says the price tag is too high for the taxpayers of Grand Forks.

He says that although the project is still in its planning phase, the intention is to fund it through a combination of grants and partnerships with the provincial and federal governments.

You can listen to the full interview below;

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