Edmonton

'Enough is enough': Flood relief welcome news in Mill Woods

Kathy Brower felt her rage rising as the floodwaters crept higher, transforming her yard into a swamp, rushing into her basement, and lapping through the doors of her garage.

'There has been frustration at every corner … but you have to be tenacious. Just like a dog with a bone'

Floods and forest fires are the biggest threat to the Edmonton region, Mayor Don Iveson says. (Kathy Brower )

Kathy Brower felt her rage rising as the floodwaters crept higher, transforming her yard into a swamp, rushing into her basement, and lapping through the doors of her garage.

It's a sight she hopes to never see again, after a $107-million stormwater management project was announced Wednesday for Edmonton's Mill Woods neighbourhood.

For Brower, the upgrades are long overdue.

Her Tweddle Place home has flooded three times in the 28 years since she moved in. July of 2012 was the most dramatic. Flood waters rose five feet in her home, and she was left with tens of thousands of dollars in damages.

'I just got angry'

"That was devastating," Brower said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"There were vehicles on the street with water up to the top. My car was in the garage and it was written off. Basements full of water.

"I just got angry, I thought, enough is enough. We pay our taxes like everyone else and we deserve the same working drainage as everyone else."

She says anytime there is a storm, nobody in her neighbourhood sleeps. They watch the waters rise, and if the manhole covers on the road pop off, they can expect their homes will flood.

The new drainage project is designed to address chronic flooding concerns in Mill Woods.

The federal government will contribute up to $30.3 million to the project. The Alberta government's share will be up to $11.9 million. The City of Edmonton will cover the rest, up to $65 million.

The money will be used to increase capacity in the stormwater system and to build three dry ponds to use as catchment areas.
Water flooded many neighbourhoods in Mill Woods in July 2012 after 70 millimetres of rain fell in less than one hour. Water poured into basements and floated cars away. (Courtesy of Chris Premji)
 

Brower is hopeful the plan will work. She says another catchment pond, constructed after 2004 flooding at a cost of more than $14-million, failed to serve its purpose.

"In 2012, the pond was only two years old, and never tested," Brower said.

"The piping to it just blew apart. There wasn't one ounce of water in that pond."

'I was absolutely horrified'

During torrential rains that summer, 500 homes in the Mill Woods area flooded. After seeing her neighbourhood submerged, Brower started campaigning the city for upgrades.

"I went around and collected signatures. I thought, I'm just going to see how many people were flooded," Brower said.

"Meanwhile, I was dealing with my own property issues, and I was absolutely horrified at the number of homes [that flooded].

"That's what really got me going."

Brower and neighbours collected hundreds of signatures, met with drainage officials and pressured the city into holding town hall meetings with concerned residents.

Council began examining long-term solutions in 2013 after an administration report showed that city drainage systems needed $200 million in upgrades to prevent flooding.

The city's original plan to deal with Mill Woods flooding was supposed to be finished in 2013 at a cost of $40 million, but problems with the soil resulted in long delays and huge overruns in the budget.

After years of lobbying for the infrastructure upgrades, Brower is pleased to see the concerns are finally being addressed.

She looks forward to sleeping easy, even when it rains.

"It hasn't been good. It's really hard for the little guy to battle the City of Edmonton, " said Brower.

"There has been frustration at every corner … but you have to be tenacious. Just like a dog with a bone."