Calgary floods: mitigation recommendations already prepared and ignored

Following big disasters governments frequently set up commissions or inquiries to study what happened, why it happened, and what should be done to ensure that it never happens again.

In the case of the Calgary flood, that’s already been done. Following the 2005 Calgary area floods, much less severe than the 2013 floods in the same area, the government established a Flood Mitigation Committee led by G. Groeneveld, MLA for Highwood, and consisting of representatives from Alberta Infrastructure and Transportation, Alberta Environment and Alberta Municipal Affairs.

The Committee completed its work in 2006 but it took until 2012 for the government to release the report. The key elements of the strategy are:

  • making resources available to make informed decisions about flood risks,
  • providing support to municipalities through guidelines, regulations and programs to limit future developments in flood prone areas, and
  • continuing to provide technical expertise to municipalities for river and lake related flooding.

The resources required for implementing the all recommendations were estimated at $306 million, a pittance compared to the costs of this year’s floods.

For reasons that we plan to explore in a future issue of Gallon Environment Letter, governments, and, to some extent, voters most frequently choose to ignore potential risks, at least until they happen again!

In this particular case, the costs to the government are only part of the consequences that would lead a government to ignore the recommendations. Publishing flood risk maps would highlight how many properties already exist in flood prone areas. Voters would likely not want to have their properties thus identified. People love to live on the banks of oceans, lakes and rivers, so restricting development in such areas would offend many voters and the developers who are holding waterside properties for future development. We will explore some of these issues in future columns.

Meanwhile, we commend to your attention the Alberta Provincial Flood Mitigation Report available at http://www.aema.alberta.ca/images/News/Provincial_Flood_Mitigation_Report.pdf

The actual flood mitigation strategy, sensible for any area of potential flooding, is in Appendix C of the report. AEMA is the Alberta Emergency Management Agency.

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