Ottawa

Flood and tornado have cost city $5.6M — and counting

The record spring flooding and freak tornado that hit Orléans has cost the city $5.6 million and counting, and the final total won't be known until the end of July.

Money meant for energy-efficiency projects redirected to pay for weather emergencies

People survey the flood risk in Ottawa's Britannia neighbourhood in April. The city says the costs associated with both flood cleanup and a freak spring tornado sit at $5.6 million — and continue to grow. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The record flooding and freak tornado that hit Ottawa this spring has cost the city $5.6 million and counting, and the final total won't be known until the end of July.

The news came during Wednesday's council meeting in a discussion about how to spend the 2018 dividends from Hydro Ottawa, which is wholly owned by the municipality.

In the past several years, the city has received a guaranteed annual dividend of $20 million from Hydro Ottawa.

Earlier this year, council decided that anything over and above that threshold would go toward community energy projects, a proposal that came from Coun. Keith Egli. The plan was approved by both the environment committee and full council earlier this year.

As the Hydro Ottawa dividend was $22.3 million for 2018, councillors expected that $2.3 million would go toward environment files.

Diverted to flood costs

But at the council meeting, Coun. Stephen Blais moved a motion — supported by Mayor Jim Watson — that $1.8 million of the surplus dividend go toward paying the flood and tornado costs.

The remaining $500,000 would be spent on a few previously announced environment initiatives, including speeding up studies related to council declaring an climate emergency in April.

Coun. Shawn Menard, who along with Coun. Jeff Leiper voted against the motion, tried to get the discussion on how to pay for climate change emergencies moved to the environment committee. He was unsuccessful.

Anthony Di Monte, general manager of emergency and protective services, said that the city will have to look at how it will fund climate-related emergencies in the future.

Climate pressure

The biggest costs for dealing with the flooding and the tornado are largely related to the additional hours city staff had to work, said Anthony Di Monte, the general manager of the city's emergency services.

In 2017, Di Monte said, the city spent almost $2 million dealing with that year's floods — which weren't as severe as this year.

This year, the city will have to fund the costs from reserve funds, in addition to the money previously earmarked for energy efficiency projects. But senior staff warned that the city will have to take a harder look at how it will pay for these sorts of climate emergencies in the future.

"The whole debate of what's happening to the environment, what do we need to do if … every two years were going to have major flooding — there's huge public policy decisions that have to be made," Di Monte told reporters. 

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