NB Power dam criticized by Perth-Andover flood victim

A Perth-Andover resident is blaming the recent flood in the northwestern village on NB Power for its handling of the Beechwood Dam and is threatening legal action to recover more financial compensation for flood victims.

Business owner considers lawsuit against NB Power

A Perth-Andover resident is blaming the recent flood in the northwestern village on NB Power for its handling of the Beechwood Dam and is threatening legal action to recover more financial compensation for flood victims.

But NB Power officials contend the utility was limited in what it could do when an ice jam caused major flooding above the dam.

The small village was flooded more than a week ago by a significant flood.

Clean-up crews are continuing to move debris from buildings and homes. Meanwhile, residents are starting to question the actions of NB Power before the flood.

Terry Shaw said he blames the extent of the recent flooding in Perth-Andover on NB Power's handling of the Beechwood Dam. (CBC)

Dr. Terry Shaw is a dentist in the village and owns two apartment buildings in the community, which were both flooded.

"We invested in small town, rural New Brunswick and we’re getting hosed and NB Power is the cause of it," he said.

Shaw said he blames NB Power for the severity of the flooding. He said the Crown corporation failed to open all the gates at the Beechwood hydro-electric dam and that caused more water to backup into a huge ice jam.

"This area never flooded until they built the dam," Shaw said.

"Historically, New Brunswick floods in Maugerville that is where it always floods, it has done that for hundreds of years, never a flood here, never a flood until ‘72 to ’76."

NB Power lists the dam’s first service period as 1957-1962.

Shaw said he is prepared to take court  action against NB Power if necessary to get more compensation for flood victims in the village.

NB Power says Mother Nature to blame

NB Power's Beechwood Hydro-Electric Dam is a 113-megawatt facility on the St. John River. (NB Power)

But Keith Cronkhite, the executive director of business development for NB Power, contends there was little the utility could do to deal with the ice jam.

"It's important that if water's able to flow, it flows at its natural rate, because you could cause abnormal conditions down river," he told CBC News.

"So again, we try to match the inflow with the outflow, thereby not causing any further events down river."

NB Power was prepared for high water levels, said Cronkhite. But dealing with a major ice jam was not expected.

"We looked at it and said, 'You know, we're gonna have high flows' and we prepared our facilities to make sure they were operating normally, which they did during the event," he said.

"But predicting ice jams and the resulting flows due to high conditions and the ice jams that result from that is a challenging environment."

Cronkhite contends all of the utility's facilities performed as they should, but they were overwhelmed by Mother Nature.

This isn’t the first time a hydro dam has been criticized for flooding in a New Brunswick community.

St. George residents blamed the Irving-owned Lake Utopia dam for contributing to the flooding in the southwestern community in December 2010.

The company hired a consultant in 2011 to examine the complaints. That report said the company’s handling of the dam did nothing to contribute to the severe flooding in the community.

Residents upset

NB Power isn’t the only government agency that is angering Perth-Andover residents.

Premier David Alward already committed to disaster financial assistance for flood victims.

But as residents continue to clean up and rebuild, some residents, such as Roland Demerchant, say they are frustrated about the lack of information about the financial compensation that will be made available to them from the government.

Demerchant, who has been in the community for 42 years, was just about to make the last payment on his newly-renovated kitchen when the flood hit.

He had to tear most of his new kitchen out after the flood.

Demerchant said he doesn’t know what to do next.

"I would like to have the government come and tell me how much I’m going to get and whether to keep on going and give you some incentive," he said.

"I don’t want to keep tearing my home apart and put it back together again."

The record flood caused the village of 1,770 people to evacuate about one-third of the community on Friday. The flood level was roughly 1.5 metres higher than the last major flood in 1987.

Premier praises recovery efforts

Despite the criticism from local residents, Premier David Alward is praising the recovery efforts in Perth-Andover.

"I want to reassure affected residents that we are doing everything we can to ensure that their immediate needs are being met," Alward said in a statement.

"Work is beginning to investigate the possibility of a long-term solution to the flood risk in the area, but for now, our priority is helping people to get back to normal as soon as possible."

The Department of Public Safety says 180 properties in Perth-Andover, the Tobique First Nation and surrounding areas have been inspected after the flood.

There have also been roughly 200 applications for financial assistance.

Public Safety Minister Robert Trevors said adjusters have started meeting with homeowners to assess their property losses.

Residential property owners could be eligible for up to $80,000 for repairs, while small businesses may be eligible for more money.

People with property "deemed to be beyond economical repair may be eligible for a buyout."

A temporary Service New Brunswick office has been set up in Perth-Andover to distribute authorized Disaster Financial Assistance advanced payments.