Why pick on Waterways?

ONE OPINION

By Frances Jean, Connect Contributor

The Burtons boating through a flood in Waterways in 1936. Photo by Julian Mills, Fort McMurray Heritage Society.

The Burtons boating through a flood in Waterways in 1936. Photo by Julian Mills, Fort McMurray Heritage Society.

Most of the lower town site is in the flood plain and at comparable elevations to Waterways. For instance, my home lot is at 249.1 m, more than three feet lower than a family member’s home in Waterways that is at 250.1.

Should we experience a one in 100-year flood there will be at least three feet of water in my downtown basement before the water hits the front step in Waterways.

I know that everyone in Waterways and all their friends and family applaud the council for repealing Bylaw 13/032 and thus allowing all of the citizens to rebuild to their former specifications. I can’t help, but wonder how many permits for downtown basement renovations were issued in the last few years while that same bylaw was in effect.

Should we ever experience a one in 100 year flood the insurance claims and the uninsurable damage may well exceed the wildfire claims. Loss to vehicles in underground parking lots, recently developed retail, and many, many homes below 250m would be of catastrophic proportions. This is where the municipality’s proposal to the province to build a removable floodwall makes so much sense.

The demountable technology is much more cost effective than permanent berms and much quicker to erect. The cost of the wall at $90 million is not so much more than the $77 million a previous council approved for a foot bridge across the Snye. (Fortunately, common sense prevailed and it was cancelled.) And certainly construction of this flood prevention would be so much less costly than an immense damage should the whole of the lower town site be flooded.

And, no one should ever forget that Fort McMurray history shows us that water danger can be a concern for many of our neighbourhoods, not just the one that has “water” in its name.

‘One Opinion’ is a Connect Weekly exclusive op-ed article by Fort McMurray matriarch and local author Frances Jean.

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