Loading articles...

Administration releases flood risk, preparedness reports to RMWB Council

The flooded Taiga Nova Eco-Industrial Park alongside the Athabasca River at the north end of Fort McMurray is shown on Tuesday, April 28, 2020. Officials in Fort McMurray are keeping a close eye on river levels after a 25-kilometre ice jam caused major flooding and forced about 12,000 people from their homes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Greg Halinda

RMWB Council met on Sept. 15 to review the administration’s updated recommendations on flood risk.

This followed the two-day meeting to discuss the motion for the Face Covering Bylaw.

RELATED: Face Covering Bylaw on hold in RMWB as COVID-19 cases slow across Alberta

Mayor Don Scott proclaimed Sept. 30 as Orange Shirt Day in honour of Indigenous lives lost and affected by residential schools.

He also proclaimed the month of October 2020 as Library Month in Wood Buffalo.

Kevin Weidlich, President and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation, presented an update on Wood Buffalo’s Business and Economic Recovery.

He said COVID-19, the 2020 Flood, the oil price crisis, and rail protests impacted the region in the short term.

As for the medium or long term, Weidlich said oil demand will increase and there is optimism in the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Matthew Harrison, Acting Director of Communications and Stakeholder Relations, spoke to this summer’s Community Conversation Engagement sessions on Flood Risk.

The engagement goals were to provide balanced and objective information and obtain feedback on July’s Council meetings.

He said the RMWB also had to ensure residents could submit ideas for alternative solutions to the proposed flood mitigation approaches.

353 residents attended in-person open house events held between July and September 2020.

Harrison said the general themes from these discussions include mental health, clarity and impacts of buy-outs, devaluation and financial implications, concern on DRP and insurance funding.

He added residents want a decision so they can move on.

Each flood-impacted neighbourhood also had unique concerns included in the agenda.

Infrastructure Performance

Deputy CAO Matthew Hough presented a report on Wood Buffalo’s infrastructure performance during the 2020 Flood and preparedness for 2021.

He reaffirmed that its overall performance did not fail, in particular in the Downtown area.

The report is in response to resolutions Council passed on May 27 and July 28.

RELATED: Council votes to accelerate flood mitigation plan

RELATED: Residents share frustrations at marathon Council meeting

Alberta Health Services issued a boil water advisory following an incident at the Water Treatment Plant on April 27, 2020.

Hough said river water entered the outfall or overflow pipe at the Water Treatment Plant.

The untreated water from the Athabasca River bypassed the plant’s safety valves.

“Following several mechanical failures, water entered the clear wells and mixed with treated water. Some valves intended to isolate the clear wells did not function as intended. At this point in time, a boil water advisory was issued.”

Hough said the investigation into how the incident impacted Wood Buffalo’s potable water distribution system continues.

He said they should have the specifics in the coming months.

Repairs to the valves and outfalls, which amounts up to $5-million, are ongoing.

Hough added the RMWB will increase inspection and maintenance of critical components, and enhance its monitoring and alarm systems.

“The Municipality and Associated Engineering completed a multi-phase plan to flush, disinfect, and test water in the Water Treatment Plant and the 375-kilometre potable water distribution system, beginning on May 8, 2020. The original, conservative estimate was a boil water advisory for 120 days, or until September 2020, however the work was completed in under 60 days.”

AHS lifted the advisory on June 19, 2020.

RELATED: Boil Water Advisory lifted for all of Fort McMurray

As for preparedness for the 2021 Flood, Hough said the administration will provide designs and estimates for the 2021 budget.

He added the storm system in the Lower Townsite equalized, so as water filled the southern end the flow affected northern neighbourhoods.

Councillor Phil Meagher said he finds that concerning.

Initial estimates show the costs are between $1.5-2 million.

Other temporary mitigation measures for 2021 include berms, bagged systems, and discussions with OSCA and their memberships

Hough recently received confirmation that the tender for berm construction near Hospital Street is on schedule.

When asked about backflow preventers, Hough said he’s aware of the interest in a proposal, which will be ready within 60 days.

The Municipality received assistance from the city of Edmonton, which employed the program.

“During post-flood inspections, the safety codes inspection teams found that homes with proper backflow preventers often had little to no water damage even though they were surrounded by homes with flooded basements.”

Hough estimated the cost of backflow preventers, which depends on the age of homes, is $800-1000.

New home construction requires the use of preventers.

In the performance report, the administration recommended an education or funding program to assist property owners with installation of preventers and knife valves.

An administrative update report is also due within 60 days.

Flood Mitigation

The administration also released Flood Mitigation and Community Resiliency Updates for flood-impacted neighbourhoods.

These are updates to flood mitigation options for Taiga Nova, Downtown, Longboat Landing, Ptarmigan Court, Waterways, and Draper.

  • THAT Administration complete flood mitigation for Taiga Nova Eco-Industrial Park, limit development below 250-meters and introduce enhanced flood provisions in the Land Use Bylaw (LUB) for development above 250-meters.
  • THAT Administration continues with the Municipality’s approved structural flood mitigation project for Downtown, limit development below 250-meters, and introduce enhanced flood provisions in the Land Use Bylaw for development above 250-meters, and advocate on behalf of Downtown property owners to the Government of Alberta and Insurance Bureau of Canada.
  • THAT Administration continues with the Municipality’s planned structural flood mitigation project for Longboat Landing, limit development below 250-meters, and introduce enhanced flood provisions in the Land Use Bylaw for new development above 250-meters; and advocate on behalf of Longboat Landing property owners to the Government of Alberta and Insurance Bureau of Canada.
  • THAT Administration offers to buy out properties in Ptarmigan Court at 2020 fair market value, until May 31, 2021.
  • THAT Administration offers to buy out properties in Waterways below 250-meters at 2020 fair market value, until May 31, 2021, limit new development below 250-meters, and introduce enhanced flood provisions in the Land Use Bylaw for development above 250-meters, and re-evaluate structural mitigation concepts for Waterways once the extent of the buyout is confirmed.
  • THAT Administration offers to buy out properties in Draper below 250-meters at 2020 fair market value until May 31, 2021, and engage separately with Draper property owners directly impacted by slope stability and report back to Council within 60 days identifying a recommendation for these properties.


The administration plans to seek further funding from the government of Alberta for structural flood mitigation and buyout options.

RMWB Council said it expects to hear several delegates and written submissions from residents when the session resumes Sept. 16.