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Despite calls for buyouts, RMWB Council goes ahead with flood mitigation

Last Updated Sep 21, 2020 at 10:59 am MDT

PHOTO. A residence in the Fort McMurray neighbourhood of Longboat Landing, which received extensive flood damage in the 2020 Spring Flood. Supplied by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

On Sept. 18, RMWB Council met to discuss flood mitigation options for Longboat Landing.

In the technical report, the administration considered three options: Flood Mitigation Only, Flood Mitigation and Land Use Bylaw Provisions, and Full Buyouts or Land Swaps.

Deputy CAO Matthew Hough said the RMWB recommends the following motion:

“THAT Administration continues with the Municipality’s planned structural flood mitigation project for Longboat Landing, limit development below 250 m, and introduce enhanced flood provisions in the Land Use Bylaw for new development above 250-meters.”

Hough added the motion calls for Council to advocate on behalf of Longboat Landing property owners to the Government of Alberta and Insurance Bureau of Canada.

Flood mitigation costs are $8.6-million, while the cost of a full buyout for the neighbourhood is $97.5-million.

Extending structural mitigation to the 1:200 year flood level costs an additional $3.1-million.

“The capital funding required to complete planned structural flood mitigation is currently approved. Additional funding is not required for completion under the current scope.”

The administration also said buyouts for Longboat Landing, and not Downtown, would appear unbalanced.

Hough thanked the residents from Longboat Landing for their participation in community engagement sessions.

He said they shared a lack of confidence in the structural mitigation and underground infrastructure.

Mayor and Councillors said they spoke with several area residents since the flood and received hundreds of emails asking for buyouts.

12 residents shared their thoughts at the Friday meeting and provided at least seven written submissions.

Many delegates such as Rob Miller expressed a strong desire for full buyouts among the community.

“This is what all victims are facing in Longboat Landing: Continued ownership of a property that was built on a flood plain and approved by the city to be built below the 250.5 M elevation [and] storm sewers with no backflow prevention. I site the following facts in my demand for a full buyout of my mortgage ($283,000.00), and a refund of my down payment on my property ($80,000.00).”

Miller criticized the administration, which approved the development of the neighbourhood on a floodplain while knowing the risks.

They also spoke of their inability to claim insurance due to overland flooding and argued development limits in the community would turn it into a “ghost town”.

According to 2018 Census data, 720 inhabitants make up Longboat Landing.

All 360 dwellings in the area are below the 250-meter line.

Council decision

RMWB Council debated and asked the administration about options before coming to a decision later that night.

Councillor Jane Stroud introduced a motion for the RMWB to elevate structural flood mitigation in the area.

This would be consistent with structural mitigation in Taiga Nova, Downtown, and Waterways.

RELATED: Downtown residents critical of infrastructure performance

RELATED: Waterways residents call for structural mitigation, egress road progress

RMWB Council approved the motion 7 – 1 with Councillor Krista Balsom dissenting.

Mayor Don Scott presented another motion addressing the insurance situation for Longboat Landing residents.

During the discussions, area homeowners and condo board owners spoke of the reluctance of companies to provide insurance.

This motion passed unanimously.

Mayor Scott also called for the creation of a pedestrian walkway as part of the flood mitigation work.

If approved, the deadline for the landscaping would be Oct. 15, 2022.

This includes a friendly amendment from Councillor Mike Allen.

The walkway motion passed by a unanimous vote.

RMWB Council entered recess and will look to conclude the meeting on Sept. 21 starting at 4:00 p.m.