Mayor seeks Lehigh flood mitigation action from Premier
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.
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.