RDKB Chair Roly Russell speaks about how the $53 million will be spent on flood recovery in Grand Forks and in the regional district. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

Governments announce $53M to buy Grand Forks properties, fix river banks destroyed in flooding

The Boundary Flood Recovery team applied for the grant last January

Grand Forks can now move forward on a number of flood recovery efforts, from dike reinforcements to buyouts for properties in the Kettle and Granby Rivers’ local floodplain, now that $53 million in disaster mitigation assistance has been confirmed.

The announcement came to the relief of many involved in flood recovery, who have been waiting to hear back on the funding for nearly a month. Other communities in the province such as Richmond in the Lower Mainland received confirmation of flood mitigation support before Grand Forks. The Boundary Flood Recovery team applied for the grant in January.

The provincial parliamentary secretary for Emergency Preparedness, Jennifer Rice, made the announcement Wednesday morning on the bank of the Kettle River in South Ruckle, one of the neighbourhoods hit hardest by last year’s May flood.

“These investments will go a long way toward mitigating the impact of a potential emergency, both here and elsewhere in B.C., ” Rice told a crowd of reporters, downtown business owners and Ruckle residents.

“I think we can go out there and say to people over the next four to five years,” Grand Forks mayor Brian Taylor said, “‘We’re going to build you an unfloodable town, so come and live here, come and put your resources into Grand Forks and help us build a better community.’”

While a flood-proof town may be difficult to guarantee, the city of Grand Forks is now gearing up to reinforce more riverbanks and dikes and buyout some floodplain properties in order to mitigate future financial impact to homeowners in the event of another disaster.

Floodplain management is a top concern for Grand Forks, Boundary Flood Recovery Manager Graham Watt told the Gazette last month. Watt explained that the city’s existing maps received few updates since they were first created in the 1990s.

“Floodplain management needs to be the same level of priority for local government as drinking water,” Watt said in May. “Doing it right saves lives, doing it wrong puts them in danger.”

Through last fall and winter, the city conducted risk and damage assessments on properties in North and South Ruckle to determine if buying out property owners would be a viable option to reduce future risk. In a survey of flood-affected land owners, more than 80 per cent of respondents said that they would be in favour of a buyout with fair compensation.

Of the $53 million that will go towards buyouts, riverbank reinforcements and other flood mitigation measures, the federal government is providing nearly $20 million, the provincial government has pledged more than $28.9 million and the city of Grand Forks will be contributing $1 million. The province is also offering an addition $2.6 million to secure downtown Grand Forks.

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