Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia to spend $2.5 million on flood-proofing in Cape Breton

The Nova Scotia government will use $2.5 million in federal disaster funding to help control water in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality following the 2016 Thanksgiving Day flood.

Federal Disaster Financial Assistance program funding comes in wake of 2016 Thanksgiving Day flood

Brookland Elementary School was extensively damaged by flood waters on Thanksgiving Day 2016 after the Wash Brook overflowed its banks, inundating homes, businesses and other buildings. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality will qualify for about $2.5 million from a federal disaster fund to reduce the risk of future flooding.

The announcement comes nearly two years after a devastating Thanksgiving storm.

Sydney-Whitney Pier MLA Derek Mombourquette says the province used federal disaster funding to help people and to take care of damaged homes. Now it is moving into flood prevention for the future. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

More than 225 millimetres of rain fell in parts of Cape Breton, including the Sydney area, on Oct. 10, 2016.

Eighteen homes had to be torn down and more than 1,100 damage claims were submitted to the province.

Derek Mombourquette, the MLA for Sydney-Whitney Pier, chose the site of a former community centre in south-end Sydney that was damaged beyond repair in the storm to announce the latest funding.

"The first step was helping the people that needed it most," said Mombourquette. "The next step was looking at the removal of damaged homes in the area, and now we've moved into the mitigation piece."

To date, the province has used federal disaster funding to:

  • Remove the federal cap of $80,000 on damages and eliminate the $1,000 deductible for homeowners
  • Buy 18 homes that were beyond repair
  • Fund renovations to Brookland Elementary School
  • Lease the former Mira Road Elementary School to the Southend Community Development Association, which lost its building in the flood
  • Give $500,000 to the United Way of Cape Breton to immediately help people in need

The province also spent $317,500 under the Flood Risk Infrastructure Investment Program for containment and mitigation efforts in Sydney's Wash Brook watershed.

Flood victims have received more than $15.5M

Mombourquette said the province has also sent more than $15.5 million in payments to flood victims.

The latest money will flow to the provincial government through the federal Disaster Financial Assistance Program.

Mombourquette said the province will work with the CBRM to identify and fund infrastructure projects to mitigate the risk of flooding throughout the CBRM, but primarily in the south end of Sydney.

A consultant's report this spring identified 15 measures to help control water flow in the area during heavy rains.

The total cost of the measures would be more than $24 million.

But the consultant cautioned many of those measures would be of low effectiveness, because the area is built largely on a flood plain.

The CBRM has already budgeted $4 million over the next five years to tackle projects recommended as having the most impact.

It's not clear whether the $2.5 million announced Monday will help offset that money, or will be used to fund additional projects.

Sydney-Victoria MP Mark Eyking (right) was on hand as Mombourquette announced provincial plans to spend disaster assistance money on flood mitigation measures. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

CBRM councillor Steve Gillespie, who attended the announcement, said that remains to be decided.

"It's a great opportunity to either expand what we currently say we can do, or start immediately on the initial plan," he said.

One homeowner in the area greeted the latest funding with enthusiasm.

"It's good news. They gotta do something right?" said Gordie Rhymes.

Area homeowner Gordie Rhymes says the worry of a repeat flood is never far off. His home survived the 2016 disaster, although many of his neighbours lost theirs. (Wendy Martin/CBC)

His basement flooded during the Thanksgiving Day storm.

His home survived, although he said many of his neighbours lost theirs.

Rhymes said the worry of a repeat event is never far off.

"Sure, it's in the back of your mind. It's always there. But at least something's going to be done and I think it will work. I really do."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wendy Martin

Reporter

Wendy Martin has been a reporter for nearly 30 years. Her first job in radio was at the age of three, on a show called Wendy's House on CFCB Radio in Corner Brook, N.L. Get in touch at wendy.martin@cbc.ca

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