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September townhall continues community conversation on flood risk

IMAGE. Supplied by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

The Municipality hosted its first telephone townhall on flood risk following weeks of open house discussions.

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The RMWB invited residents and business owners from the region, in particular from flood-impacted areas in Fort McMurray, to participate in the hour-long session.

On July 14, the administration tabled a technical review on flood mitigation and land development options.

RMWB Council read this and held a special meeting on flood risk on July 28.

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Deputy CAO Matthew Hough said the administration received extensive feedback.

“The input that we have received through the 24 hours of engagement sessions is truly going to impact our recommendations to Council on Sept. 15. We are not taking any of this lightly. We know how important this is to get right, and we know how important this is to do and to make decisions in as timely a fashion as we possibly can.”

Hough said the RMWB will also consider feedback submitted online and through Pulse.

Longboat Landing

The townhall received several calls from residents from Longboat Landing.

IMAGE. Supplied by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.


During the open house discussions, residents from the neighbourhood expressed interest in a buyout.

One caller named Brent from Longboat Landing said there was all but unanimous support in the community for a buyout.

He said this was due to lack of insurance and proposed changes to the Land Use Bylaw.

“We’re all pretty eager to move on with our lives and be part of this town just somewhere else, because we’ve been let down, and it’s time for us to get out of here and that would be the right thing for everyone.”

He said displaced residents only started returning to the area, but he fears it will suffer a similar fate as the Penhorwood Buildings.

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If the Municipality decides to proceed with full or partial buyouts, Hough spoke about the RMWB’s next steps.

“The work would have to be undertaken in the coming years to restore or turn whatever area is left into something else for the community.”

A technical evaluation of Longboat Landing estimated a full buyout at $97.5-million.

Infrastructure Performance

Project Manager Maureen Nakonechny provided insight on how a partial buyout would impact Waterways and the egress road.

“Should we proceed with an amended flood mitigation plan for Waterways in the event of a partial buyout, we would likely to secure the egress routes for the community and we would also at considering protections for the storm system.”

The proposed Saline Creek Parkway would provide area residents an escape route should an evacuation order occur.

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The current design for the berms is 250.5 meters, which is the 1-in-100 year flood event height plus 0.5 meters of freeboard.

Nakonechny said the RMWB plans to build flood mitigation into the landscape to preserve the waterfront.

She added residents can find a current example in the completed trails near the Syncrude Towers.

Nakonechny also spoke about the issue of slope stability, which impacts Draper, Waterways, and Beacon Hill.

“Post-flood, we’ve engaged geotechnical engineers to check riverbank stability. We do have an ongoing monitoring program for Beacon Hill, where it overlooks the Hangingstone River.”

She said the RMWB can check the scope of that program includes the Athabasca River.

Hough said there will be a second report on the region’s infrastructure performance during the 2020 Flood and afterwards.

“It’s going to identify work that we will be doing across the Lower Townsite not only to enhance our sewer systems but also prepare for Flood 2021. We are undertaking quite a bit of intermediate work to make sure that should we face a flood event in 2021 that we will have as many measures in place to mitigate flood risk as we possibly can.”

Several residents from Draper, Waterways and other areas expressed their concerns about ‘fair market value’.

Another resident from Longboat Landing said the concept doesn’t exist for residents living below the 250-meter mark.

Hough addressed this and the development options.

“The flood development options, [which] were developed and circulated in advance, were done so in an objective a fashion as possible. This is a process that we’re doing in as transparent a manner as we possibly can because this was not the way it was done before. We’re doing this in a way that, hopefully, the final decisions will reflect the opinions of the majority and of the community.”

RMWB Council will examine the results from the engagement sessions at their meeting on Sept. 15, 2020.