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RMWB to conduct talks with Ptarmigan Court on flood mitigation options

Last Updated Sep 17, 2020 at 4:21 pm MDT

A flooded neighbourhood along the Clearwater River in downtown Fort McMurray, Alberta 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 resumed on Sept. 16 to examine the administration’s review of flood mitigation options.

RELATED: Administration releases flood risk, preparedness reports to RMWB Council

Since 1835, 16 of the 17 registered floods in the region were ice jam floods.

Only twice did floods occur in back-to-back years.

On Sept. 15, Mayor and Councillors approved a motion for Taiga Nova Eco-Industrial Park to build up to the 1:200-year flood level.

RELATED: RMWB Council set to resume talks on flood mitigation options

The administration estimated the cost of structured flood mitigation in Taiga Nova at $6.4-million.

Ptarmigan Court

The Council meeting began with a discussion on Ptarmigan Court.

Deputy CAO Matthew Hough said the administration recommends voluntary buyouts for the property owners according to 2020 fair market value, until May 31, 2021.

Chris Davis with Legal Services said a professional appraiser would determine what’s fair between buyer and seller.

He added structural mitigation on a property-by-property basis is possible.

He added it won’t significantly improve the safety of residents because they must still evacuate in case of a flood.

Hough said residents of the area are split between buyouts and continuing mitigation, but all shared they want a decision made as soon as practical.

They believed there were opportunities to act following the 2013 flood and 2016 wildfire, but little done to protect them.

Mitigation efforts at specific properties in Ptarmigan could run between $15,000 and $20,000.

Hough said this still comes with a residual risk of flood to those living in the area.

The Municipality made a formal request to the government of Alberta on land swaps for relocations.

CAO Jamie Doyle said the province did not make a formal monetary commitment or a commitment toward land transfer.

The administration estimated full buyouts at $14-million.

RMWB Council received nine written submissions on Ptarmigan Court, including seven that the administration read aloud.

Council Decision

Councillor Verna Murphy returned to introduce a motion.

Discussions would determine if buyouts, funding to raise properties to the 250-meter elevation on the main floor, or land swaps will work best in that community.

Upon completion, an administrative report will return to Council to consider to include accurate financial costing.

Mayor Don Scott made a friendly amendment for Council to hear an update in 90 days.

The administration would also provide a progress report on discussions with the province about funding and land swaps in Ptarmigan Court.

RMWB Council approved the motion by a 7 – 1 margin.

Councillor Krista Balsom, who voted against the motion, said residents expected a prompt decision on flood mitigation.

The population of Waterways including Ptarmigan Court is 232, according to 2018 Census data.