Saskatoon homeowners fed up with storm flooding want buyouts, threaten legal action

Homeowners fed up with years of stormwater flooding say they want to the city to step in and buy their homes and in some cases they are even threatening legal action.

'We shouldn't have to deal with it year after year,' says Avalon resident

Flooding in the Avalon neighbourhood on Aug. 8. Resident Dean Landsdell, who is considering legal action against the city, ended up with more than 2.5 centimetres of water in his basement. (Steve Pasqualotto/CBC)

Some homeowners fed up with years of stormwater flooding say they want to the city to step in and buy their homes, and others are even threatening legal action. 

Residents in low-lying areas of the Avalon, Adelaide and Churchill areas are reporting ongoing problems with flooded backyards, basements and garages. 

Jennifer Kerr, who lives on Early Drive, said the flooding is nothing new, but this time around she is hoping the city will do something to fix it.

"I want the city to buy it," she said following a city committee meeting Tuesday where the city's storm water system stirred hot debate. 

"I want them to make a lake. It's a bog right now. The front has sunk, the back has sunk and I am not alone."

Several homeowners showed up at the meeting and many of them were emotional as they looked to city officials for some kind of solution. 

Last week's downpour was just the latest example of how the city's storm water system is inadequate, they said. Kerr said flooding has been happening in her area since the '70s.

Dean Landsdell's flooded backyard on Aug. 8. He says the repeated flooding of his backyard is 'maddening.' (Submitted by Dean Landsdell)

Clark says no easy solutions

Mayor Charlie Clark said he understands the frustrations and emotions, but so far there is no easy solution.

"The rainfall events this summer have really highlighted a problem that has been building for the last decade in Saskatoon," he said.

"The storm water from entire neighbourhoods is being funnelled down into a few key low spots and then flooding into basements."

He admitted that the city's storm system was created in the 1960s and doesn't address the kinds of weather events that are now more common. 

"When you see ... the dark clouds gathering around the city, is that going to mean your basement is going to be flooded? I think whatever solution we come up needs to address that uncertainty as much as possible," Clark said. 

Some homeowners considering legal action

Dean Landsdell is among the Avalon residents who have been hit hard by high water after two storms on July 10 and Aug. 8.

While many other homes in the city were unaffected by the downpours, Landsdell said there was about a metre of water in his alley, 25 centimetres in his garage and about 2.5 centimetres in his basement. He said the city's storm water problem was making his home more expensive to insure and likely harder to sell.

One Avalon resident put their belongings in this container after the July flood, only to see it flooded when another downpour hit the city on Aug. 8. (Steve Pasqualotto/CBC)

City response inadequate

It is the eighth time his yard has flooded since 2010, although this year is the first time the water has reached his basement.

He said it is a "maddening" situation and the city response has been inadequate.

"I'm not sure but I think the only thing we have left to do is take legal action against the city because it's their problem and they need to fix it," said Landsdell.

"We pay high taxes in the city and we shouldn't have to deal with it year after year."

The contents of Landsdell's garage and basement now sit in a container in his yard while he waits to hear if he can access provincial disaster assistance.

His property was not insured for overland flooding when the July 10 storm hit Saskatoon. By the time the second storm blew in on Aug. 8, he had upgraded his policy. 

But he said more frequent storms will continue to raise his premiums if the city doesn't ramp up its efforts to fix the problem.

A police car in flood water on the 1400 block of Early Drive on the eastern side of Saskatoon. (Submitted by Jennifer Kerr)

Previous estimates put the cost of upgrading storm sewers in the worst-affected areas at about $20 million.

Although the city has been setting aside money from the stormwater utility, councillors heard amassing $20 million would take time. 

One option would be to charge all homeowners in the city about $30 more a year, and business property owners would have to pay more. 

Clark said, however, that even engineering a solution doesn't provide any guarantees. That's why he said it's important for the city consider all options — including flood walls, storm ponds and buying up affected homes.

Council will debate storm water issues at a meeting later this month. 

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning