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Rising waters in Ottawa add urgency to planning for future disaster prevention

Rising waters in Ottawa add urgency to planning for future disaster prevention

OTTAWA — Flood waters were still rising around Ottawa on May 1, even as officials talked of planning for a future of similar disasters and Canada’s need to prevent, prepare and adapt.

“Either you invest in adaptation — otherwise you’ll have to spend on remediation year after year,” federal Infrastructure Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told reporters.

He said he wanted to sit down with his provincial counterparts about where and how to build after a flood, and the role of federal funding, including how to get some of it into cities that want to invest in disaster adaptation.

The federal government is planning to spend $2 billion over the next decade on projects that will help mitigate or prevent damages from disasters like flooding.

“I think it’s just the right thing and the smart thing to do,” Champagne said.

“So what I’m saying is that let’s get together, let’s work together. I think that’s what citizens expect from us and I’ll be happy to explore with my colleagues, is there a sense that people would want to do that in light of the construction season which is at our doorstep.”

In Quebec City, Premier Francois Legault announced the creation of a group to co-ordinate the government’s flood response and prevent future disasters.

In addition to ensuring municipalities and homeowners are compensated quickly, Legault said the group would review what’s considered a flood zone and “ensure good decisions are made, whether it’s for infrastructure building or moving certain residences.”

Legault said he hoped the group would have a plan in place in the coming months, in order to carry out as much work as possible prior to the 2020 flood season.

On May 1, ice pellets began falling in the Ottawa area, as 155 households at risk from rising water voluntarily moved out ahead of a city plan to cut power to their neighbourhood.

Karen McCrimmon, the MP for the hard-hit Constance Bay area west of Ottawa, told reporters outside the weekly Liberal caucus meeting that homes will be lost to the flood, but just how many is uncertain. Also uncertain, she said, is the breadth of insurance coverage to help with rebuilding.

“You know, this riding, this area has had the floods in 2017, the tornado in 2018, now flooding again in 2019,” she said.

“Everyone has been through so much and they’re still stepping up to help their neighbours.”

But as Ottawa braced for more flooding, other parts of the country received some good news.

In Quebec, while the number of evacuees rose slightly overnight, water levels appeared to be dropping in the majority of flood-affected areas.

And while rain in the forecast had raised fears of flooding along the Richelieu River, a meteorologist from Environment Canada said the downpour was unlikely to cause anything more than minor flooding in the areas near Lake Champlain.

In New Brunswick, a section of the Trans-Canada Highway that had been closed by flooding since April 24 was reopened to traffic, with one lane available in each direction.

Also, the federal government added Ontario’s Muskoka region to a list of flood areas in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick that are off limits to boats and drones, other than those operated by emergency personnel or homeowners with no other means of reaching their properties


© 2019 The Canadian Press

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