Tag Archives: recovery

Aug 22 Flood Recovery Update

On August 22 there was another Boundary Flood Recovery Update meeting at GFSS in Grand Forks.

The audience grew to over 110 people. The number seated on stage had shrunk to 4  (previous meetings had as many as 8).

The organization this time was a timeline review of June and July followed by about 20 submitted questions and then the questioning was opened up to the floor.

You can watch and listen below

Part 1 – Timelines – June and July

Part 2 – Submitted Questions

Part 3 – Questions from the Floor


Flood Recovery Meetings of Early August Expose Hard Choices

This week (Aug 7-10) there were a number of meetings held by the Flood Recovery Team.

Just as the receding of flood waters reveals the rocks and debris from the disaster these post-flood-data-gathering meetings are exposing the hard choices the city needs to make for its future safety and existence.

First the residents of each affected area got meetings that were closed to everyone but them. The two meetings with North and South Ruckle residents happened at GFSS, the meeting with downtown businesses was in the Gazette office. Where the meting with Johnson Flats’ residents took place I do not know.

In previous meetings there was a sense of unanswered questions and amorphous plans. These new meetings laid out the harsh realities.

In some meetings the people were given options to consider. In the meeting about Downtown there was only one ‘option’.

For those who have options to consider they are facing either a buyout / relocation OR raising their house (if possible).

And it doesn’t sound like they will have individual choice on this: the city is seeking the public’s input to make that choice. They need to choose an option that serves the needs of the community at large as well as reflects the will of majority of those in that area. So if the majority in an area goes for a buyout they will likely all get a buyout . . . and not everyone will be onside with that.

In the North Ruckle meeting  the engineer, Dobson, first showed a slide with all the houses marked with either a Green or red mark. Green meant that house didn’t get flooded and would not need to be raised (if that option was considered). Red meant that house would need to be raised. All the houses but one were Red. But a new dike would need a setback from the river of up to 20 meters in places and that single house would then be either in the way or in the river. So no houses in North Ruckle would escape the ‘choice’ . . . look at the screen grab below to see the tentative location of the dike they are proposing.

And what might that choice be? Well  they held a ‘straw poll’ of the 60+ people in the room with a show of hands of those who wanted a buyout. A large majority of them had their hands in the air . . . I hear that the South Ruckle meeting showed a similar sentiment.

Naturally not everyone wants to leave their place – for many it’s been a good home in a  community they cherish. But in the final decision which will be made by council it will be the will of the majority that will hold sway. And as councilor Thompson alluded to 70 minutes into the Questions part of the public meeting the city has powers they’d rather not use to deal with those who are recalcitrant.

When you hear them talk relocation what they mean is a Buy-out and then relocation to somewhere within the city. That will be a major issue to overcome for our town.

It will require using what available land there may be to create new housing opportunities for these displaced residents to move into. Which means working out how to stimulate construction of housing that isn’t prime because many of those who will be on the relocate list will not be shopping in the prime real estate listings because they won’t be able to afford ‘prime’.

Why? Many of them are ‘retired’ people and wouldn’t likely qualify for a mortgage of any serious size. And while various city councilors are saying that they are suggesting that the buyout’s be done at  fair ‘before the flood’ market value it will be up to people who don’t live here (meaning Victoria) to decide how those buyouts are calculated. So don’t be too surprised if the numbers fall somewhere between the before and after flood valuations. And that will mean those affected won’t be financially able to afford much of anything like they lost.

This affects all of us who live and pay taxes here in Grand Forks. Every tax payer who leaves town or becomes a renter stops being an input on the tax rolls of the city. The major protective works will cost 10’s of millions of dollars. Those will hopefully be revenue neutral with funding support from the province and feds. But the fixed costs of the city, paying for the upkeep of its infrastructure and assets takes money. That money comes from taxes and utility rates. Those might both see a significant drop in numbers of paying customers. That means for those of us left the rates and taxes will go up. And if the fiscal picture gets grim there might be hard choices to make down the line regarding those assets and services the city has and provides.

For Downtown the only option is Protective Works.

Part of that means a Dike, And while the actual location of that Dike hasn’t been decided just yet there is the distinct possibility that a number of dwellings along the river will be either destroyed or become cut-off and unusable. You can see that in the screen grab below. Some of that dike might entail raising the street and that becomes part of the dike.

The other protective work that has been proposed, for downtown, is ground water mitigation. While overland flood has been a relatively infrequent occurrence downtown the same cannot be said for ground water rising and wetting basements and crawl spaces – that happens more often than not come spring time, So they’re finally going to put in a system to try and control that.

In addition they will be working on gates and pumping to keep the storm drain system from becoming a means of ingress of the river flood waters into downtown streets and basements.

The choice of which options will be made relatively quickly – within the next month. The answers are needed to calculate how much money the City will be asking of the Province. You’re going to hear the term ‘Ask’ a number of times in the meeting. Plainly speaking every major project that needs to be done will be cost too much for the City or Regional District to pay for on its own. So each becomes an Ask of a funding body outside the area – the Province or Feds.

On Wednesday they held a public meeting in the auditorium at GFSS and publicly discussed most of what they had shown in the closed meetings. And faced questions. You can watch that below.

I’ve broken the meeting into 3 parts: Introduction, Options and Questions.



Flood Recovery Public Meeting July 11, 2018

The first of many public meetings on the Recovery was held at the GFSS auditorium on Wednesday July 11, 2018

These meetings are to inform the public about what has been happening, what is planned and also to get feedback from the public.  A for instance was the appearance of Rockwool and an announcement of their offer of up to 20 bags of insulation free to those needing to rebuild. More info on that at www.rockwool.com/grandforks.

These are also the place to ask questions and put rumours to rest.
Such as this rumour: Is there an $80 million dollar cash infusion so the city can buy out affected home owners? No there is not.
or this question: Will those having to rebuild have to pay fees to the city for things such as licenses and re-connection of power? No the planners don’t want to add to your pain.

The full meeting can be watched below. IF time permits I’ll try to add  better links to parts of the meeting so you don’t have to wade though the whole thing to find the question or info you need to know. Like I do with city council pie. (but today I have shift to work so time does not permit this)


Business Recovery Open House – Advice From High River

The recent flooding disaster affected not only residents but businesses as well. It’s a month on and a number of downtown businesses are still evacuated from their premises. Some will be able to return sometime during the summer once restoration work is done but others have a tougher and longer wait – with the worry that some of these buildings might have to be destroyed.

This creates a lot of anxiety and hardship because most businesses cannot go 3 months of interruption and still survive. So what can the business owners expect to happen? And what can the community do to help prevent losses and facilitate recovery?

It turns out that people here in Grand Forks have connections that lead to people who were part of the team that got High River, and its business community, back from its historic flood disaster 5 years ago. In their case over a thousand businesses had to be evacuated among the myriad of other issues facing them. But they persevered and as a result High River has been able to recover and be stronger (and better protected) than before.

Two of those people mentioned above happened to be attending something nearby in Kelowna. These are Angela Groeneveld and Todd Williams. From Angela’s bio:

Angela also has extensive experience in Business and Economic Disaster Recovery. She was on the ground through all phases of recovery experience combined with professional education to assist local businesses to recover and rebuild after natural or manmade disasters. Some of her projects include; building Canada’s first temporary business park to house businesses that lost their storefronts to the 2013 flood; transitioning the businesses through the phases of recovery. She was then called to share her expertise in partnership with EDA and Red cross to assist in the initial stages of business recovery during the Fort McMurray fire. Angela is a facilitator for the International Economic Development “restore your economy” training. Angela currently is working with the Puerto Rico Economic Development Director on business recovery and contracts to the Town of High River on the last phase of recovery.

Todd Williams was the Project Manager for all these projects and grants related to rebuilding and renewing the business community of High River.

They were able to change their schedule to visit Grand Forks and see for themselves the situation. They talked with some of the people in affected businesses, made connections with the local government and business support groups.

The Boundary country Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted this Open House for business owners so they could hear what Angela and Todd had to say and ask questions.
(please excuse the audio issues at the beginning of the meeting – it gets better)