06/17/2014 03:58 EDT | Updated 08/17/2014 05:59 EDT

Kashechewan evacuation costs continue to mount

After more than a month in hotels around the province, families from Kashechewan have started returning home.

And the bill is being tallied for the third spring evacuation in a row. This time, a sewer backup also damaged the nursing station, keeping people away from the community until this week.

Chief Derek Stephens said the cost to feed and house nearly 1,600 people outside the community has cost about $280,000 a day, and run into the millions of dollars.

“So that gives you a guesstimate on how much it has cost the government for our community to be out,” he said.

The annual disruption has an emotional cost as well, “especially [on] the young people who are really affected by this,” Stephen said. “Because their education has really been disturbed, year-to-year.”

A temporary health centre has been set up in the community, while repairs are made to the nursing station. Efforts are being made to prevent it from flooding in the future.

Studying a future move

The First Nation is working with the federal government to once again study whether Kashechewan should move, Stephen noted.

“The outcome of that report will show the direction of the Kashechewan First Nation,” he said.

The study is expected to take a year.

In the mid-2000s, the former Liberal government proposed moving Kashechewan to higher ground, at a cost of $500 million.

Critics said the money was never actually budgeted, and the incoming Conservative government reached an agreement with the band to spend $200 million dollars on flood protection instead.

In the meantime, the cost to fix homes and infrastructure from the latest round of flooding has not yet been calculated.

Stephen said the damaged homes are the same ones that were repaired after flooding last year. A total of 36 homes had sewer backup.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada has not yet responded to a request for the cost of the 2012 and 2013 evacuations.