Province denies Lehigh berm proposal
The residents of Lehigh can now rest easy after news that the proposal for the construction of a berm through parts of the community for flood mitigation has been squashed.
On Monday, May 9 Drumheller town council, including the mayor, CAO, and officials from the Alberta government and engineering firm Stantec, met with Lehigh residents to discuss the town’s strategy and current progress in securing flood mitigation funds from the province for the community which was devastated by floods in 2005 and 2013.
“It was an opportunity for the people of Lehigh to be presented with the facts and I think they all went away feeling that the Town of Drumheller is working in their best interest,” said Mayor Terry Yemen.
A proposal submitted by the town and developed by Stantec Engineering, under direction of the Government of Alberta, for flood mitigation in Lehigh included plans for the construction of a berm which would have protected about half of the property in Lehigh while excluding the rest along the riverfront.
Residents of Lehigh voiced their opposition to the project after resident Shawn Lumsden acquired the confidential proposal documents from the town via a Freedom of Information Act request in September of last year.
Documents viewed by The Mail showed the cost of constructing the berm, estimated at $2,285,000, was worth more than the assessed value of the property that would have been protected in Lehigh, estimated at $1,074,920, and because of this, Mayor Yemen said the proposal was destined for denial by the province.
“There was never going to be a berm approved for Lehigh. Council had no reason to believe the dyke would ever be approved,” said Yemen, who explained the application was part of the flood mitigation process.
“Council would not have moved forward even if a berm had been funded knowing now that the Lehigh residents were not in favour of it.”
Lehigh residents, led in part by Shawn Lumsden, had criticized town council and administration over the project, which was ordered by the province to remain confidential until it had A flood mitigation proposal submitted to the province for the construction of a berm in Lehigh has been denied by the province after the project costs were estimated at more than twice the assessed value of protected properties. Before further mitigation efforts can be made in Lehigh, the town is currently lobbying the provincial government to honour agreements it made decades ago to provide 100 per cent flood mitigation funding to Drumheller. reached a decision.
“I get it, they were frustrated, but they were given a little bit of information and it got carried away. It went a long way from the truth or reality,” said Mayor Yemen. “For administration and council to be criticized is not right.” Lumsden denied comment. The project’s denial may now lead to potential buy-outs of land in Lehigh, but not until funding agreements with the province are ironed out.
The town is currently pressing the provincial government to honour agreements it made decades ago to provide 100 per cent funding for flood mitigation in the jurisdiction.
Yemen said the town is in possession of two different correspondences from the late 70s and mid 80s where the province agreed to fully fund mitigation projects.
“We’ve had some pretty good people looking over the town in the past, people who had a vision and saw there may be issues regarding funding and went to the province and attained signed special agreements that specifies Drumheller as an exception (for flood mitigation). They recognized that mitigation was their responsibility at 100 per cent cost to the province.”
In February of this year the province announced the approval of funding parts of two other flood mitigation applications made by the town for the Newcastle and Midland areas, but the projects’ approved funding was at 90 per cent of the estimated total cost of $7.3 million. Drumheller was approved for $6.2 million.
Mayor Yemen said the town has shelved those projects as it lobbies the province to provide the remaining funds on the grounds of their previous agreements.
“The funding they are offering is not the funding that is acceptable to the town. We’re waiting for the province to answer our questions and see if they will honour their word. If not, it may be something that could be a put to the residents of Drumheller in the form of a plebiscite,” said Yemen.