Province moves forward on flood protection on the Highwood River, updates status of DRP payments
New funding from the Alberta government will allow work on the southwest berm and other mitigation measures to go ahead to protect High River from future flooding like the 2013 disaster in southern Alberta.
“The Town of High River was one of the communities most severely affected by the damaging floods of 2013. Local flood mitigation projects on the Highwood River will provide a greater level of protection for families and businesses in High River and surrounding communities.”
"The projects announced today in regards to our mitigation efforts are key pieces to the success of our community. We have all worked very hard over the last two years on this and it is a great day to see it all come together. Action on flood protection, as well as leadership on resolving outstanding issues with the DRP, are excellent steps forward. Always, thank you to the people of Alberta for your continued support of the rebuild of High River. It is very much appreciated."
The projects being announced today reflect a commitment of approximately $30 million in multi-year funding for flood infrastructure in the Town of High River. This builds on previous commitments of more than $100 million since 2013.
The funding will support a number of flood mitigation projects, including:
- design and construction of the southwest berm
- design and construction of the 5th Street berm
- Lineham Bridge rehabilitation
The southwest berm is considered a key component of an upgraded system of flood barriers in High River.
In addition, $2 million in funding for flood modeling will support a working group to assess upstream and downstream impacts of the planned flood defences. The group will have representation from the province, Town of High River, Municipal District of Foothills and the Highwood Management Plan Public Advisory Committee.
The province commissioned Dutch research foundation Deltares to study mitigation options for the Highwood River. Deltares reviewed two diversion options and recommended neither due to concerns about environmental sustainability and cost effectiveness. Based on the Deltares study, the province, Town of High River, and Municipal District of Foothills are now assessing options for improving the flow of the Highwood River, as recommended by the firm in its “Room for the River” approach.
The decision not to build the Highwood diversion gives Town administration the clarity it needs to design and build additional local flood mitigation projects, including the southwest berm and the 5th Street berm.
Changes to the Disaster Recovery Program
The provincial government is making changes to the Disaster Recovery Program that will allow 80 per cent of outstanding cases to be resolved. The changes will also ensure the DRP process operates more efficiently in the future, should Albertans be faced with another disaster.
“Having experienced the hardship of a disaster at a very personal level, I understand the kind of pressures families and business owners across Alberta faced after the 2013 flood. That’s why I believe in doing everything possible to help the Town of High River rebuild. While we will move as quickly as we can to resolve the remaining files, it’s also of vital importance to take a close look at what changes need to be made so Albertans can be assured disaster assistance will be there when they need it.”
The government will cease collection on overpayments for files of $5,000 or less. This affects nearly 550 outstanding case files. In about 75 cases where overpayments are more than $5,000, files will be handled on a case-by-case basis.
The province will also be closing nearly 450 files that are classified as inactive. In many of these files, the applicant has not been in contact with government staff for several months. We will be taking a proactive approach to establishing contact with these applicants before sending a final notice. The applicant will then have 30 days to address outstanding concerns. After 30 days, department staff will follow up with applicants to ensure they received notice, at which time the file will be deemed closed.
A dedicated office will remain open in High River to process the remaining claims as quickly as possible.
With a total financial impact of approximately $6 billion, the 2013 southern Alberta flood was the most costly natural disaster in Canadian history.