Alberta Premier Redford wants more flood money from federal government for homeowners who choose to live in flood plains, but not for those with no choice about hydraulic fracturing and suffering significant damages, losses

 Alberta Premier Redford needs more flood money from federal government by Darcy Henton, October 28, 2013, Calgary Herald
Alberta believes Ottawa needs to pony up more than $2.6 billion for flood damages in the southern part of the province, Premier Alison Redford said Monday. Redford told reporters after a speech to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce that the province is pleased with the support it has received from Ottawa, but the province’s finance minister has advised federal finance minister Jim Flaherty that “we think $2.6 (billion) is probably low.”

[What are and will be damages to Alberta homeowners living in cities and rurally from damages, illness and property devaluation caused by the oil and gas industry, including hydraulic fracturing? People choose to live in flood plains and along rivers known to flood every few years; people living frac’d have no choice.]

She said Flaherty cited the $2.6 billion amount based on information he had available at the time. The province has previously estimated the total cost of the June flooding that swept through southern Alberta at approximately $6 billion, with the province on the hook for about $4 billion of that amount. Under the disaster recovery agreement between the federal government and the provinces, Ottawa reimburses provinces for up to 90 per cent of approved disaster costs. Redford suggested it is premature to set a final amount since the deadline for flood victims to apply for compensation is not until Nov. 30. “At that point in time we’ll have more certainty with respect to numbers, but we’ve appreciated that the federal government has continually been a partner, been supportive and is of course willing to put very big dollars behind flood relief,” Redford said. Redford made the comments after announcing on the opening day of the legislature’s fall sitting that the province will introduce legislation to address flood recovery and reconstruction. “Our flood recovery bill will apply the lessons we learned in the face of the worst natural disaster in Alberta’s history,” she said in her speech to more than 500 members of the Chamber of Commerce. “It will include new protections against future flooding and measures to make our emergency response even more effective.”

She later told reporters the legislation will add to the framework of responses Alberta had in place when the unprecedented flooding of Calgary, High River, Medicine Hat and other southern Alberta communities occurred. “We were able, through the work we did with our public service and municipalities, to deal with the natural disaster that we faced [unwisely allowing communities and individuals to develop homes and businesses in known flood plains makes it a man-made disaster, like hydraulic fracturing is for those forced – against their choice – to live with it] — the real catastrophe — but one of the things we learned was we could create legislation that gave everyone more flexibility so we have decided to introduce some amendments that will allow that to happen,” Redford said. She said the changes will enable the province to respond as it did, but “with a little less jumping through the hoops.” [Emphasis added]

After the High River flood, Alberta government promised to pay for flood cleanup, but with only a trickle of money, residents are struggling by Emily Senger, October 21, 2013, MacLeans
In the days after southern Alberta saw the worst floods in the province’s history, residents returned to dig sewage and river mud out of their homes. It was back-breaking work, but there was hope as streets filled with mountains of mucky belongings. Premier Alison Redford promised her government would do “whatever it takes” to rebuild the homes and communities damaged in the June floods.

These days, hope is fading in High River, the province’s hardest-hit community, where thousands of residents in the town of 13,000 remain displaced, waiting for government money to rebuild. When the money finally comes, many are certain it will not be enough. “Ever since Ms. Redford gave her pretty speech about looking after us all and helping us to recover, all we’ve heard from them since is what they’re not going to do,” says High River resident Carla Schmidt. I feel really stupid now. I was defending. I was saying, ‘Ms. Redford said she was going to help us.’ ”

Carla sits beside her husband, Ron, in their garage where he just reopened his barbershop. The garage is in better shape than their 100-year-old home and attached business, which is stripped down to the frame. The home was paid for, the nest egg for the couple and their two adult daughters, both of whom have Down’s syndrome. A contractor said the Schmidts need at least $164,000 for repairs. The government’s Disaster Recovery Program—the DRP as it’s known in town—said the family will get $18,000 for the business and $30,000 for the home. They’re still waiting for the cheque. A friend launched an online fundraising campaign for the Schmidts to help cover the shortfall. So far, they’ve received more than $5,000 in donations. It’s impossible to tell exactly how many in High River are still displaced. There are more than 1,000 people in Saddlebrook, temporary trailers in a dusty lot north of town. Like many, the Schmidts have relied on the generosity of friends. Others live with relatives, in one of the many holiday trailers parked on the street, or they are back in partially finished homes—some without furnaces. Unfit-for-habitation notices remain posted on doors. Downtown, most businesses are shuttered.

Disaster Recovery Program money is starting to flow. The government has made more than 2,300 payments across the province, worth $11.2 million. (More than 8,000 people applied.) Rick Fraser, the government minister appointed to oversee High River, knows people are frustrated and says the government is pushing to get money out. “We’ve been very clear from the beginning that this was not going to be an overnight process,” says Fraser. “Part of my role, where we’re at, is creating the right expectations.” As residents wait, the government partnered with the Red Cross to get furnaces and hot-water heaters in homes.

In the Hampton Hills neighbourhood, Allison and Kristian Pedersen’s home sat in a stagnant lake of water for 18 days. After a 94-day cleanup and drying process, they’re ready to rebuild the house they lived in for a year with their two young boys. There is one problem: money. “I’ve been crying today,” says Allison, as she stands in her living room, which is stripped to the frame. She points to a dip in the floor where the main beam is sagging. It needs to be replaced. Allison says it will cost at least $50,000 to repair her home; that’s with her extended family providing much of the labour. The tears stem from a conversation earlier that day, when a government employee said she should prepare to receive just a fraction of the money she asked for. “We’re scared right now and we’re ready to walk away, but we don’t know what to do,” she says.

Up the street from the Pedersens, Kristi Brehon and Jamie Ellice stand where their fireplace used to be, the spot where Ellice proposed just eight months ago, on the day the couple moved into the brand-new home. Like the Pedersens, Brehon and Ellice’s home is stripped. A crack above the doorframe in the master bedroom is visual proof of the two ruined main beams in the basement and two more that are damaged. Their builder estimates it will cost $161,000 to repair the home. As they wait to see how much the government will provide, words like bankruptcy and foreclosure are starting to enter their vocabulary. “We’re willing to absorb some of the costs, but if we’re $100,000 out, then we won’t fix our house,” says Brehon.

Amid much uncertainty, one thing is becoming clear: not everyone in High River will have homes rebuilt, as the government said. …

The people who are moving back into their homes didn’t wait for the government. One block from the Pedersens, Catherine Smith and her husband, Matt, had water up to their main floor. Their insurer refused to cover them. When they got access to their home 21 days after the flood, a rainbow of blue, orange and yellow mould was halfway up the main-floor walls. Catherine, on maternity leave with a two-month-old baby and a three-year-old, turned to the funding website Gofundme to ask for help. The family raised about $15,000 from donations. “That webpage is the only reason we are going to move home before DPR pays us,” Catherine says. Matt, an electrician, is well-connected to other builders who donated supplies or labour.

Even as the luckier residents move back in, worries remain. The next flood season is just eight months away, and dikes and berms that were destroyed in June must be rebuilt in a short time frame. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

Leaking natural gas wells a nightmare for homeowners near Edmonton by Darcy Henton, Calgary Herald, April 11, 2011
The Calmar controversy shocked [Alberta] Premier Ed Stelmach who vowed to find out “where the breakdown was,”

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach demands answers to why Calmar homes put in danger and built over abandoned gas well by Darcy Henton And Archie McLean, June 3, 2010, Edmonton Journal
Imperial Oil, which purchased Texaco in 1989, said some of the wells were leaking small amounts of natural gas when they were discovered in 2008.

Water better be OK, Ralph Vows to Intervene on Coalbed Methane Complaints by Darcy Henton, Legislature Bureau, The Edmonton Sun, March 1, 2006.
[Alberta Premier Ralph Klein] gave his personal guarantee the concerns of suffering families will be addressed.  ”I am willing to extend that to the fullest extent,” he told reporters yesterday. “Whatever is necessary to be done will be done.” [Emphasis added]

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