Flood map errors have caused 'irreparable damage,' Beaconsfield mayor says

Mayors in four West Island municipalities are calling on the Quebec government to change recent flood maps.

Municipalities in Montreal’s West Island call on Quebec government to fix the maps

As a result of the maps, Beaconsfield Mayor George Bourelle said insurance premiums have gone up for homeowners in the area (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

Mayors in four West Island municipalities are calling on the Quebec government to change their recently released flood maps, saying the error-riddled document could damage property values and cause other issues for residents. 

The map labels waterfront properties in the area as flood zones, but mayors say they've never had issues with flooding and don't anticipate issues any time soon.

"We couldn't believe what we saw," said Beaconsfield Mayor George Bourelle.

Bourelle, along with the mayors of Pointe-Claire, Baie D'Urfé and Dorval have been working together to ask for the changes. 

The areas in question did not flood in 2017 or 2019. The mayors say their cities are also not in a 0-to-20-year flood zone, which would put the chance of flooding each year at five per cent or higher.

A newly released map of Quebec flood zones includes Pointe-Claire, Baie d'Urfé, Dorval and Beaconsfield. Mayors from those areas say they've never been flooded. (Quebec Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing)

As a result of the maps, Bourelle said insurance premiums have gone up for homeowners in the area.

He said it has also become a struggle for people trying to sell their homes.

The municipalities met with Quebec's Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing earlier this month. Mayors are hoping the areas will be removed when the map is updated in mid-July.

Beaconsfield councillors discussed the issue at a meeting Monday evening. 

"There's irreparable damage that has been done because there is a map out there. It's public information that identifies areas as flood zones," he said.

"So even if it's removed there's always the argument, 'you were in a flood zone according to the government.'" 

Moratorium on construction 

The areas surrounding Lac Saint Louis are protected by a dam, so the mayors doubt there will ever be flooding in the residential parts of their municipalities. 

The Quebec government has placed a moratorium on construction in flood zones, which they are calling special planning zones. The moratorium stops people in flood zones from expanding their buildings. 

Because Beaconsfield has been labelled a flood zone, Bourelle said residents have had to hold off on doing major renovations on their properties.

"People cannot build any extensions, they cannot demolish, they can't do any work outside on their properties and so that has put some people in a very stressful situation," he said. 

The Montreal Metropolitan Community has been working on their own flood map of the entire island of Montreal and surrounding areas.

In an email to CBC News, they said their maps of the areas around Lac Saint Louis will not be ready before next summer. They said the Quebec government did not use their data to come up with the maps.

'Cautiously optimistic'

Baie D'Urfé Mayor Maria Tutino said that she believes the government will be removing the West Island municipalities from their updated flood zone map next week.

"Everything we've heard from the government since the July 2 meeting implies we will be out, but until the decree comes. … we can't say it's a done deal. We're cautiously optimistic," she said. 

Tutino believes that it was an innocent mistake caused by the technology the government used to create the map. 

Maxime Bourgon is currently building a waterfront home in Beaconsfield. The new flood maps say the property is in a flood zone. 

"I was [surprised] because the water never went close to the house. I actually have a cement wall in the back and it never went over the cement wall," Bourgon said. 

He is still able to build, since he got his permits before the updated maps were released.

Maxime Bourgon is currently building a house on the waterfront in Beaconsfield. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

Bourgon is also hoping to build on two lots in LaSalle, but he says that, for now, those plans are on hold because of the new flood maps.

"I think they were very aggressive with the line," Bourgon said.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing did not return a request for comment Monday.

In a statement on its website last week, the ministry said the flood zone maps will be adjusted "to better reflect reality."

About the Author

Franca G. Mignacca is a journalist at CBC Montreal.

With files from CBC's Simon Nakonechny


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