Prov­ince de­nies Le­high berm pro­posal

The Drumheller Mail - - REAL ESTATE - Kyle Smylie The Drumheller Mail file photo

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.

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