Mayor seeks Le­high flood mit­i­ga­tion ac­tion from Premier

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Kyle Smylie

Mayor Terry Ye­men has asked Premier Rachel Not­ley to fi­nally pro­vide the town and the res­i­dents of Le­high with their plans for flood re­sponse in the small com­mu­nity east of Drumheller.

Af­ter meet­ing with In­fra- struc­ture and Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Brian Ma­son last month, Mayor Ye­men sent a let­ter to the Premier’s of­fice seek­ing their re­sponse on be­half of res­i­dents for a de­fin­i­tive ac­tion plan as to what flood mit­i­ga­tion will look like, or whether mit­i­ga­tion ef­forts will even be un­der­taken, in the event of an­other flood.

“We’ve been try­ing to get the ques­tions asked by the peo­ple of Le­high an­swered. I un­der­stand peo­ple’s frus­tra­tion, that their lives are on hold, but the town is not the en­emy,” said Ye­men, whose of­fice and the of­fice of the CAO have come

un­der fire by some Le­high res­i­dents for the ab­sence of a flood mit­i­ga­tion plan and for a per­ceived lack of trans­parency and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

“The town is try­ing to lobby to get fund­ing for flood mit­i­ga­tion and we haven’t heard any­thing. Ul­ti­mately the de­ci­sion is not the Town of Drumheller’s but the Al­berta govern­ment’s.”

“We’re not the bad guys here. The town is not re­spon­si­ble for mit­i­ga­tion but we’re re­spon­si­ble for lob­by­ing for Le­high.”

Le­high res­i­dent Shawn Lums­den, whose email crit­i­cized the town’s flood mit­i­ga­tion ac­tion and which was at­tached to Ye­men’s cor­re­spon­dence with Premier Not­ley, says that the town is in fact re­spon­si­ble in part for flood mit­i­ga­tion ef­forts be­cause the Town of Drumheller tasked Stan­tec Engi­neer­ing to cre­ate the flood mit­i­ga­tion pro­posal.

“The town­ship cre­ated the pro­posal, had it ap­proved by the town­ship, and then the town­ship sub­mit­ted it to the prov­ince,” said Lums­den, “so how is the prov­ince com­pletely re­spon­si­ble for this when the town was the one who ap­proved and sub­mit­ted it? The prov­ince is re­spon­si­ble for fund­ing, not for up­keep.”

The mit­i­ga­tion pro­posal, which has not been re­leased by the town but was shown to the mayor, CAO, and town coun­cil­lors, has been ob- tained by Lums­den through a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion and Pri­vacy re­quest, and pur­port­edly sug­gested that a berm be con­structed through Le­high which would pro­tect some prop­er­ties while ex­clud­ing oth­ers along the river­front.

Lums­den said that dur­ing a con­sul­ta­tion meet­ing be­tween Stan­tec and Le­high res­i­dents on Septem­ber 24, 2015, the idea of plac­ing a berm in Le­high was not one of the res­i­dents’ sug­ges­tions.

The mit­i­ga­tion ap­pli­ca­tions sub­mit­ted to the prov­ince show that the prop­erty as­sets to be pro­tected are far less than pro­jected cost of a berm or other mit­i­ga­tion ef­forts, which would sug­gest that Al­berta would be look­ing at some type of buy­out plan for Le­high res­i­dents.

The pos­si­bil­ity of po­ten­tial buy­outs could leave Le­high res­i­dents un­will­ing to put money into flood-proof­ing their homes if the govern­ment comes back and of­fers buy­outs that won’t com­pen­sate prop­erty own­ers for the work done.

“Buy­outs are not the best thing for a mu­nic­i­pal­ity be­cause buy­outs take away from the tax base and there would be a loss of tax dol­lars. That’s how town’s sur­vive,” said Mayor Ye­men.

Ye­men wants to re­mind res­i­dents that the town had ex­tended wa­ter ser­vices to East Coulee and saw the com­mu­ni­ties east of Drumheller as an area of fu­ture de­vel­op­ment.

The mayor’s cor­re­spon­dence with Premier Not­ley comes just un­der one month af­ter two other Drumheller area com­mu­ni­ties, New­cas­tle and Mid­land, were ap­proved for mit­i­ga­tion fund­ing of $6.4 mil­lion to raise ex­ist­ing berms and to con­struct a new berm in Mid­land.

In th­ese ap­pli­ca­tions the town would be re­spon­si­ble for ap­prox­i­mately $1.3 mil­lion of project costs, but Ye­men said the Al­berta govern­ment has ac­knowl­edged that they are wholly re­spon­si­ble for flood mit­i­ga­tion projects in the prov­ince and Drumheller has asked for the prov­ince to bear the en­tire costs of the project.

The New­cas­tle and Mid­land projects are only two projects of nine ap­pli­ca­tions that were sub­mit­ted for pro­vin­cial ap­proval.

Ye­men says there was no cri­te­ria or ex­pla­na­tion given as to why th­ese projects were ap­proved.

The next step in mak­ing progress in terms of the Le­high plan is to put pres­sure on Drumheller-Stet­tler MLA Rick Strankman and the op­po­si­tion Wil­drose to help bring Le­high’s con­cerns to the at­ten­tion of govern­ment, Ye­men said. Strankman was CC’d on the let­ter to Not­ley and was present when Ye­men met with Min­is­ter Brian Ma­son last month.

file photo

Mayor Terry Ye­men has, in a let­ter, asked Premier Rachel Not­ley to fi­nally pro­vide the res­i­dents of Le­high with their plans for flood mit­i­ga­tion ef­forts in the small com­mu­nity east of Drumheller, where the 2005 and 2013 floods dam­aged a num­ber of homes.

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