City flood prevention program could cost $2.4B over 100 years

Edmonton may have to pay around $2.4 billion to provide adequate flood protection in at-risk neighbourhoods and industrial areas over the next 100 years, according to the latest city report.

A city report says an investment of up to $50 million per year is needed to prevent future flooding

Heavy rain caused flooding at St. Albert Trail and the Yellowhead on Tuesday afternoon in June 2013. (Phil Laplante Jr./CBC News)

Edmonton may have to pay $2.4 billion to provide adequate flood protection in at-risk neighbourhoods and other areas over the next 100 years, according to the latest city report.  

The city-wide proposed flood mitigation program — which includes installing major drainage systems such as storage ponds in more mature neighbourhoods — will cost up to $50 million per year for the next 50 to 100 years.

Chris Ward, the branch manager for the city’s drainage services department, says they will ask city council to apply for provincial and federal grants to help alleviate the costs of implementing the flood prevention program.

However, taxpayers will also have to help with the costs, and could see their monthly drainage utility bill increase by a dollar per year — or a jump of two to three per cent — every year for the foreseeable future.

The flood prevention program, as well as the increases to drainage utility costs, would be implemented in 2019.

Ward said the update of flood mitigation work is necessary — and not only because of climate change.

“There’s an expectation of a much better level of service now, so we have to adapt the neighbourhoods for that, as well as this significant change in storms that we’re receiving now,” Ward said.

“It’s very much a change in expectations.”

City-wide program

Edmonton has previously experienced severe storms where heavy rains caused significant flooding, rising water levels and sewage back-ups, particularly in the city’s older areas. 

However, the proposed program is not limited to the mature neighbourhoods that have become accustomed to frequent flooding during storms with heavy rainfall.
Chris Ward, branch manager for the drainage services department, says expectations for flooding prevention have changed in recent years. (CBC)

“It’s any neighbourhood, whichever decade it was built in, which doesn’t have a current flood prevention works,” Ward said. 

“If you were to go into the newest neighbourhood which was recently constructed, you will see it is designed very differently … to control larger storm events. Any neighbourhood that does not have that type of facility is on the list.”

Priority neighbourhoods

Ward said flood prevention work will vary from neighbourhood to neighbourhood and will be specific to each area’s needs.

Although priority areas have not yet been determined, Ward said previous flooding will be taken into consideration.

“We are undertaking works right now which have flooded and we are responding to those and we have built into our plan those works,” Ward said.

“We will be figuring out or determining a prioritization for all future neighbourhoods — and flooding history will be a part of that prioritization.”

The city said the proposed utility bill hike would not only cover the proposed flood mitigation program, but the entire drainage services department.

The report will be discussed by the City Council utility committee on Sept. 18.