ALBERTA

Alberta To Fund Flood Protection For High River

11/02/2015 02:22 EST | Updated 11/02/2015 04:59 EST
DAVE BUSTON via Getty Images
A house is submerged by flood water at a park near the Bow River in Calgary, Alberta, Canada June 22, 2013. Water levels have dropped slightly today. AFP PHOTO/DAVE BUSTON (Photo credit should read DAVE BUSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

HIGH RIVER, Alta. — A southern Alberta town devastated by flooding two years ago is to receive another $30 million in an attempt to prevent history from repeating itself.

Flooding in parts of southern Alberta in June 2013 resulted in billions of dollars in damage. One of the hardest hit communities was the town of High River where entire neighbourhoods stood under water for weeks.

"We know we can't control Mother Nature, but we're taking steps to lessen the impact of future disasters on homes and communities,'' Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee said Monday.

"That is why without further delay our government is moving forward with a flood mitigation strategy to help safeguard families and businesses in High River from future floods.''

Larivee said the new funding will allow work on two berms and a bridge to help shelter High River if the Highwood River should again spill its banks.

The projects reflect a commitment of about $30 million in multi-year funding for flood infrastructure. The money comes on top of previous commitments of more than $100 million.

The Disaster Recovery Program received more than 10,500 applications after the floods. Almost 9,000 of those had been resolved as of earlier this year.

Larivee said changes are being made to the program that should allow 80 per cent of outstanding cases to be resolved. The changes are also meant to ensure the process operates more efficiently should Albertans be faced with another disaster.

The government is also backing away from collecting overpayments it made on almost 550 files.

"The total of that comes to $1.5 million that we'll be writing off,'' Larivee said. "It has been budgeted already. The numbers in the value of those files range from $100 they might owe up to $5,000, so the cost to recover them is actually greater than it would be to forgive those.''

High River Mayor Craig Snodgrass said the mitigation efforts are "key pieces to the success'' of the community. The town long ago rejected the idea of a channel to prevent future flooding in favour of the berms.

He also applauded the move to forgive overpayments to some High River residents.

"One-and-a-half million? Is that too much money to just forgive? No, it's not, because of the hell and the agony that people have gone through, not just in High River but across Alberta with this DRP program,'' Snodgrass said.

"To go around and start clawing back $1,000 out of their hands is ignorant.''

High River is still rebuilding more than two years after the flood that led to nearly 12,000 residents being forced from their homes. Some businesses still remain closed or have relocated, work continues on buildings and streets and one of the neighbourhoods destroyed by the water was finally being demolished on the outskirts on Monday.

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