Calls for flood defences in Southern Alberta to be bolstered

Even before water levels have totally receded and cleanup has begun, estimates on how much damage from recent flooding in the province are being tossed around.

BMO Nesbitt Burns and ATB Financial estimate total damage will be between $3-billion and $5-billion.

About 25 per cent of that won’t be covered by insurance.

That would make the flood of 2013 the second most expensive natural disaster in Canadian History, behind the 1998 ice storm that pounded Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.

A leading scientist says cities such as Calgary will likely need much better flood defences in the future. 

John Pomeroy, who is one of Canada’s top water researchers, says climate change models suggest precipitation patterns are changing and Alberta’s communities are not built for it.

Pomeroy says this year’s flooding have changed forever how runoff from the Rockies will flow downstream into the province’s towns and cities.

Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail reports weeks before the flood, satellite images from NASA showed the ground in Southern Alberta was already saturated with water, so rain and melting snow had nowhere to go except overland, in the form of flooding.

An expert says devastation could have been reduced in Southern Alberta if the government had followed its own report on how to lessen the impact of severe flooding.

The report, which was completed in 2006, contained 18 flood measures.

They included not selling crown land in flood-prone areas, and not making disaster recovery payments to inappropriate developments in flood zones.

Paul Kovacs with the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction says it is an excellent plan that should have been acted on quickly.

Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths says some work has been done, but there was no way all of the report’s recommendations could be fully implemented.

Not long after water levels started to rise, Griffiths suggested there will be a review of flood preparedness but that would only happen after the current crisis passes.

Local states of Emergency are still in effect in almost two dozen Alberta communities, including Calgary.

The Redford government has already promised $1-billion in flood relief with displaced residents to be given cash cards in the next few days to help cover the expenses they are occurring while away from their homes.

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