ALBERTA

High River State Of Emergency To Be Lifted Despite Pushback: Redford

07/11/2013 12:54 EDT | Updated 09/10/2013 05:12 EDT
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HIGH RIVER, Alta. - Alberta Premier Alison Redford confirmed Thursday that a state of emergency in flood-stricken High River would be lifted on schedule.

The emergency declaration came into effect almost immediately after the town was swamped three weeks ago and the plan has been to lift the order Friday.

Redford also said the province is handing control of High River back to its town council.

She said provincial support will remain for the community of 13,000, which had to be entirely evacuated when floodwaters hit.

"We are not going anywhere," she said at a news conference in High River. "This is only another phase. We're in it for the long haul."

Opposition Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, who is from High River, had wanted the legislature reconvened so the province could extend the state of emergency.

Redford said there was no real need for that.

"There's no magic that having a provincial state of emergency in place ... will speed up things tomorrow," she said.

Associate minister Rick Fraser and provincial officials are to remain on the ground in High River as rebuilding continues, she added.

Mayor Emile Blokland said Redford and her government "have been there" for the town and it's time to move ahead.

"Tremendous progress has been made in High River," he said. "We know the amount of work that lies ahead."

There was extensive damage when the raging Highwood River swiftly surged through the community June 20 after torrential rains.

Streets were inundated, residents were stranded in vehicles and homes and whole neighbourhoods turned into lakes. Some areas still aren't dry.

Smith said she's disappointed the state of emergency isn't being extended. She pointed out things have not returned to normal in High River.

"I hope we don't see a disruption in the rebuilding process."

Redford also said the government is contemplating a policy to address whether rebuilding should be allowed in areas prone to flooding.

"It's an issue we're dealing with right now. It's complicated because it is going to impact people's lives," the premier said.

"It doesn't matter where you live in this province, we cannot continue as a provincial government to say to people it's OK to build in a floodway. It's not the right decision.

"We think that if people have the information with respect to that, they will make constructive choices, taking responsibility for their life and move ahead."

She said there is "a whole suite of recommendations" that will be put in place."

A report submitted to the government in 2006 recommended the province restrict development in flood-prone areas, but no action was taken.

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