BLOG | Flood mitigation measures frustrate High River locals
Blogger Amanda Pawlitzki on the confusion she has encountered in trying to move forward
High River residents Angela Piovesana and Amanda Pawlitzki will be blogging over the summer about their experiences during and after the floods that hit southern Alberta.
They'll tell stories of the recovery through the eyes of people who live there.
It’s been nearly two months since the floods hit my home in the southern Albertan town of High River.
As we move on, businesses and individuals that have access to their homes are anxious to put the pieces back together.
As a homeowner, I know my house and my life will never fully be the way it was before June 20, but I am ready to rebuild. A large obstacle in starting over has been the province's mitigation measures.
The Alberta government set up rules and regulations for homeowners and businesses in certain areas of town to follow in order to get help if the "100-year flood" happens again.
A disaster recovery centre is now set up long-term in High River at the rodeo grounds, Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. MT, to work with people one-on-one. After this week, the location could change if the lease at the centre's current building is not renewed.
Information on ﬂoodway, ﬂood fringe, overland ﬂooding, who to call and what steps have to be taken if you require assistance is on the province’s website.
What it does not say, very clearly, is who will pay for the mitigation up front? I have called the Alberta Municipal Affairs ofﬁce, spoken to people answering phones with the disaster recovery program (DRP), tweeted the province’s official Twitter account @YourAlberta and spoken to Rick Fraser, the associate minister of recovery in the area, at length on the phone.
When I asked Fraser about mitigation, he made a few things clear — the policy is set up to guard against another 100-year ﬂood. It is also the people of High River who will rebuild High River, and the government wants people to start doing regular things and stay living here.
Fraser also said they are hoping to implement mitigation not only with homes and businesses, but also the infrastructure of the town and river, to help protect everyone.
I don’t disagree with Fraser and I appreciate his efforts, as well as the efforts of everyone involved with the recovery process after this mammoth disaster.
That being said, I still feel as if I am in limbo. And in talking to others in my community I know many feel the same. So far, mitigation has felt like that popular saying — take "one step forward, two steps back."
What I do know is many people will not get adequate help.
Anyone in a ﬂood fringe or overﬂow area who receives money from the DRP in order to pay for repairs that insurance does not cover has to use mitigation measures going forward or they will not get any help if a similar ﬂood happens again.
So that means when rebuilding their basement, if it was developed, it would involve relocating the electrical panel out of the basement to the main ﬂoor or higher.
I also learned — according to the province’s ﬂood mitigation fact sheet — you can set up your contractor to bill the DRP directly for mitigation measures.
But DRP officials are not sure if that is actually possible when I eagerly called to double check.
I, and others, expect the road to recovery to be a long one with many questions, trials and tribulations along the way. But when those questions are asked, it’s frustrating to get conflicting information.
I am learning.
Learning to be more patient, learning not to be afraid to ask the same question to different people to make sure I get the same answers.
I am hopeful that mitigation will be less confusing and painful once the process begins for everyone and, until that happens, I am going to continue to email, tweet, call and talk to the powers that be in person.
I’m not opposed to mitigation, I am just a frustrated homeowner that wants concrete answers that I can use to begin my own mitigation and rebuild. In return, I will be able to focus my efforts on helping others as the community attempts to get back to day-to-day life.