Edmonton

Fort McMurray neighbourhood trying to convince municipality to buy them out

With administration set to give recommendations for Wood Buffalo's flood mitigation strategy next month, residents in Fort McMurray's Longboat Landing are in a rush to convince the municipality to buy out the neighbourhood. 

'We all hoped and prayed there wouldn't be a flood,' homeowner says

Homes in Longboat Landing were damaged during April flooding. (Submitted by Bill Duncan)

With administration set to give recommendations for Wood Buffalo's flood mitigation strategy next month, residents in Fort McMurray's Longboat Landing are in a rush to convince the municipality to buy out the neighbourhood. 

Longboat Landing is a collection of condominium complexes on the south end of downtown. There are 360 homes in the area, with a population of 720, according to the municipality. 

None of the properties were built above the flood zone, and all were impacted by the recent April  flood. 

The municipality is currently recommending the neighbourhood be protected with berms, which would cost $8.6 million to build. But many in the community are requesting a full buyout, which would cost an estimated $97.5 million. 

Rick Hulbert, 43, has owned his apartment-style condo in the Heritage Landing complex for four years.

Hulbert said his building lost flood coverage in 2019. The April flood caused about $200,000 of damage to the building's parkade and elevator. 

The building's condo board is trying to apply for Disaster Recovery Program funding to help cover the cost. 

"Before we moved in here we did all our due diligence," said Hulbert. Before buying he talked to neighbours, realtors and his lawyer. 

Hulbert said he knew they were near a river, but no one warned him the building was on a flood plain.

Bryce Kumka estimates there was about $10 million in damage in the Longboat Landing area. (Submitted by Victoria Ganace)

"If there's a flood next week, I'm going to lose everything," said Hulbert. "And if I get the buyout I'm still going to have a significant debt." 

He said the apartment is valued at about half of the $285,000 he paid for it. 

He doesn't trust that the berm would be enough to protect the condos, he said, because when the flood in April happened most of the damage to his building was caused by the sewer backing up into the parkade, not by overland flooding. 

Bryce Kumka, senior account executive with Rogers Insurance, said his company is the broker for all but one building in Longboat Landing.

He said he does not anticipate that it would be difficult to get fire insurance coverage for the buildings but flooding would be a different issue. 

"As far as the availability of coverage from a flooding incident … [it] may be challenging," said Kumka. 

He said the addition of berms would give condo corporations a better chance to get coverage, because that would mitigate some of the risk. 

Kumka pointed to 2013 flood in Calgary, where he said similar damage was done but most flooding coverage now is available. 

All of the 360 dwellings in Longboat Landing were impacted by the April flood. (Submitted by Brooke Byrne)

Kumka estimates there was about $10 million in insured damage in Longboat Landing due to the April flood. 

"It doesn't make a lot of economic sense to do a large scale buyout when the protection is cheaper to install," said Kumka. 

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo administration is expected to make updated recommendations for flood mitigation on Sept. 15. That update will include responses from residents gathered at open houses, on Facebook, and through written submissions.

In an email to CBC, a municipal spokesperson said when insurance costs for condos rose in November, the mayor sent a letter to the federal and provincial governments asking for an investigation into the cost of insurance. 

Homes were gutted in Longboat Landing after the April flood. (Submitted by Brooke Byrne)

During the recent town meetings, the spokesperson said, insurance company representatives said finishing flood mitigation project would positively impact coverage.

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