Fort McMurray's Waterways subdivision given green light to rebuild

Good news for Fort McMurray’s Waterways residents, the municipality and the province is clearing the way for rebuilding in the flood-prone community devastated by May’s wildfire.

'This clears the path in some respects,' mayor says

Crews begin to work on the burned out remains of the Waterways neighbourhood of Fort McMurray after wildfire forced the evacuation of the city. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The Alberta government has assured the residents of a fire-ravaged community in Fort McMurray they can rebuild even though the subdivision sits on a floodplain.

"This clears the path in some respects of people looking for some answers," Mayor Melissa Blake said Tuesday.

Several creeks and rivers flow through or near the Fort McMurray subdivision of Waterways. (David Thurton/ CBC News)

The permission from the province was required because it will soon pass legislation preventing any community from building in zones prone to flooding.

The Alberta government told the municipality it will provide disaster recovery funding in case of a future flood.

Strings attached

Before rebuilding, residents must sign legal documents that indicate owners understand the risks of building on a flood plain.

Those documents must be transferred with the property titles, the municipality said.

"It does serve to warn a potential purchaser that you are building on a flood plain and there are some risks," said David Leflar, Wood Buffalo director of legal and legislative services.

"We have a duty to warn people."

A map outlines the flood zones in Fort McMurray's Waterways neighourhood. (CBC Edmonton )

The municipality must also build a flood wall or levee that lowers the risk of a flood for the community which sits on the Clearwater River.

The municipality has approved design money for the wall but no date was given for its construction.

Despite the assurance from the province and the municipality's intention to construct flood-prevention measures, Waterways residents are rebuilding at their own risks, said Coun. Allan Vinni.

"There's never a guarantee that flood mitigation from an engineering standpoint won't fail," he said.

Vinni also said disaster relief funding might only be available for severe or 100-year floods.

In other words, less serious floods might not qualify for provincial aid.

Follow David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitter and via email.

Statement from Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee: 

"As someone who lived through a devastating wildfire in my own hometown of Slave Lake, I know the emotional toll large scale disasters have on residents and communities. The rebuilding process is not easy or simple, but it's important that residents are involved in the decision making about what their rebuilt community will look like. We look forward to standing with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and the people of Fort McMurray as they make the important decisions around how to rebuild their neighbourhoods and region."