High River flood protection gets $30M boost from province
Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee says 80% of DRP claims will also be settled
The province is committing $30 million to move ahead with several flood mitigation projects in the town of High River, Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee announced Monday.
The town was inundated when the Highwood River overran its banks in June 2013. Three lives were lost, about 13,000 people were forced from their homes and thousands of residences were damaged beyond repair.
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The funding will be used for the design and construction of a berm in the town's southwest, another at Fifth Street, and the rehabilitation of the Lineham Bridge.
"This is a huge day for High River," said Mayor Craig Snodgrass. "I was worried that this was going to get delayed, delayed and delayed."
An additional $2 million will be allocated to a working group that will study the upstream and downstream impacts of the town's new flood defences. The group will include representatives from the town, the Municipal District of Foothills and the province.
The flood protection measures are based on the conclusions of independent study conducted by the research foundation Deltares.
The Dutch experts reviewed two diversion options for the Highwood River, but recommended neither over concerns about environmental sustainability and cost effectiveness.
Instead, the province will pursue a 'room for the river' approach, as suggested by Deltares, by assessing options for improving the flow of the Highwood River.
"Now that we have all the information, we are taking action," Larivee said.
The province says Monday's announcement builds on previous commitments of more than $100 million since 2013.
Larivee also provided an update on the controversial Disaster Recovery Program (DRP) which was designed to help with flood compensation.
Several homeowners in the town are still waiting for their flood-related claims to be resolved, in many cases because of disputes regarding accidental overpayments.
The minister said the government has decided to forgive 550 overpaid claims where the discrepancy is less than $5,000 — a move that will cost the province about $1.5 million, the minister says.
"The action we're announcing today will resolve 80 per cent of open DRP claims," she said.
In about 75 cases where overpayments are more than $5,000, files will be handled on a case-by-case basis, the minister said.
Another 450 files that are classified as inactive will be closed. A DRP office will remain open in High River until all outstanding claims have been processed.