08/31/2012 01:33 EDT | Updated 10/31/2012 05:12 EDT

Report into New Brunswick flood suggests moving homes and building a new bridge

FREDERICTON - A report into a spring flood in Perth-Andover suggests moving as many as 72 homes in the northwestern New Brunswick community at a cost of about $8 million to protect them from flood damage in the future.

The report also concludes that some homes on the nearby Tobique First Nation may also require relocation at a cost of about $700,000.

The March 23 flood forced the evacuation of 500 of the village's 1,780 residents and resulted in about $25 million damage.

In April, the provincial government tasked a group representing Perth-Andover, the Tobique First Nation, NB Power and the provincial government to examine what caused the flood and what could be done to help prevent similar floods in the future.

The 16-page report that was released Friday says the flood resulted from an early and rapid rise in the flow of the river, and was beyond human control.

"The risk to Perth-Andover and Tobique First Nation is relatively high with a flooding event occurring about every five years over the past decade," the report states.

It goes on to say New Brunswick has been experiencing weather conditions in recent years that contribute to the early break-up and movement of ice, which in turn results in ice jams and flooding.

"Thus it is reasonable to consider relocation of the most seriously affected residences (those that experienced main floor damage) and to consider flood proofing other affected properties."

While some residents pointed to NB Power dams as a cause for the flood, the report says dam operations are not a significant contributing factor to ice jam formation. The report says NB Power followed all guidelines in its operation of dams in the area and tried three times, unsuccessfully, to clear an ice jam.

The report also says road improvements should be made to improve access to the village and surrounding communities during a flood, including a new bridge across the St. John River that would cost at least $20 million.

"A new bridge and approaches constructed above the historical high water mark would ensure continuity of access between Tobique First Nation, Perth, and Andover and beyond during flood conditions, with obvious benefits to the health and safety of the local population."

The report also calls on the provincial government to improve monitoring and forecasting of water levels, ice break-up and possible ice jams.

Perth-Andover Mayor Terry Ritchie is calling on the government to respond to the report within 10 days.

Deputy Mayor Rick Beaulieu said the people of the community need the government to take prompt action.

"We believe there's time this fall to move some people out of danger, so we're hoping a decision can be made as soon as possible so that we can use this fall's construction time," he said Friday.

He said emotions are still running high and residents don't want to face the prospect of their homes flooding again in the spring.

Ryan Donaghy, a spokesman for the Department of Environment and Local Government, would not put a deadline on when the government would respond.

"This is one step towards their response," he said. "Government asked for this study by the end of August. They've received it and decisions will be made going forward."