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Council endorses buyouts, dikes for flooded neighbourhoods

As many as 100 homes could be bought out to protect against future flooding.
Flooding over North Ruckle in Grand Forks, May 2018. (Kathleen Saylors/Grand Forks Gazette)

As many as 100 homes could be receiving flood-related buyouts after a landmark City of Grand Forks council decision made public Tuesday night. The estimated dollar figure of the set of decisions put forward by council on Tuesday is in the range of $60-million.

Council adopted resolutions specific to flood impact neighbourhoods as follows:

North Ruckle will be subject to a complete buyout; elevate Second Street and 68th Avenue; dike along the path east of Rockwool and land returned to the natural floodplain.

South Ruckle will have bank protection measures from 63rd to 66th Avenues to prevent further loss of land; a setback dike aligned with 9th Street and 66th Avenue with an internal drainage system; buy out high-risk and low lying dwellings along the south and east edges of the neighbourhood equivalent to the one in 20 year floodplain and homes at imminent risk of loss to erosion.

Johnson Flats will have homes raised where water depth was less than 50 centimetres; limited bank protection measures on the west edge and some portions of the south edge; a buyout of homes with an extremely high risk of flooding (high risk determined as more than 5 per cent annual risk) at the north end of 12th Street and other residences lower than the one in 20 year floodplain.

Downtown: Build a dike; elevate Riverside Drive north of Highway 3 in lowest areas; provide repairs and improvements to the storm system; build flood walls to protect “high value” buildings with no other options; buy out select homes along the dike alignment north of Kettle River and the Forks; obtain first right of refusal for “single family residence on Riverside south of Highway 3.”

These decisions apply only to homes within city limits and not to homes in the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary. The RDKB board is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks.

Aside from buyouts, the proposal includes the construction of three new dikes and armouring “kilometres” of riverbank.

The recommendations are based on a river study, known as a hydrological survey, prepared by Dobson Engineering. Council considered the options in a series of in camera meetings, as well as a workshop. The final decision was made in camera Tuesday afternoon, and made public during the regular meeting of council Tuesday night.

Mayor Frank Konrad said the council voting record is being held in camera; only the resolutions as adopted by council have been released.

Konrad said the decision to hold the voting record in camera is a result of “safety concerns.”

“Council made a tough decision looking to the future” said Mayor Frank Konrad. “Residents needed us to look out for their best interest. We chose the safest options rather than the cheapest because we never want to repeat the flooding we had this year,” Konrad said in a press release issued by the Boundary Flood Recovery team shortly after the council decision.

Any and all buyouts and flood protection measures are contingent on provincial approval and funding. Council made these decisions in order to put forward an “ask,” to the province with a dollar figure attached, several councillors said.

That figure is estimated at around $60-million, but that is not set in stone: that figure is plus/minus 50 per cent, as it is still an estimate that will be confirmed with detailed engineering study for infrastructure.

The number put forward on Monday is a rough estimate that takes into account every contingency. With further detailed engineering studies, that number is expected to be narrowed down to within 15 per cent of total project costs.

Members of council have previously stated that council has advocated for buyouts to come at the pre-flood market value of the home.

The city would bear little of those costs; the majority of funds would come from provincial and federal partnerships. The proposal has now gone forward to the provincial government, where it will either be approved or amended.

The flood recovery team has said that right now the exact number of homes affected by a buyout has not be determined. At least 62 homes (every home in North Ruckle) will be included, and estimates are between 80 to 100 total homes, said Graham Watt Tuesday. That number is dependent on further study and site-specific consultation on homes.

The specifics of the buyout program, including homes in specific neighbourhoods other than North Ruckle subject to buyout, will be finalized in the next year.

The overall project implementation will take the next four years, according to the flood recovery team.

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