Canadian Underwriter
News

The province said to lead Canada in physical flood defences


June 21, 2018   by Greg Meckbach


Print this page

Half a century after the completion of the Red River Floodway, Manitoba still provides the best examples of overland flood defence work in Canada, the founder of a property loss think tank suggests.

The Manitoba government estimates that the Red River Floodway on the outskirts of Winnipeg – has prevented about $40 billion in flood damage since the project was completed in 1968.

“Manitoba’s leadership has been on the physical protection defensive side,” Paul Kovacs, founder and executive director of the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR), told Canadian Underwriter Tuesday in an interview. “That’s where they are second to none in Canada.”

Both Manitoba and Ontario are provinces that can serve as an example to Alberta, which was hit five years ago with record flooding that put the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary under water. While Manitoba has good flood defences, Ontario’s strength lies in strict zoning regulations that prohibit development in the riskiest areas, noted Kovacs, who founded ICLR.

“More than 250 mm of rain fell over a 36 hour period in the foothills west and southwest of Calgary and began rapidly flowing east through the province’s river valleys,” ICLR noted in a release on Tuesday marking the fifth anniversary of the disaster. “This was the largest riverine flood damage event ever experienced in Canada.”

Economic losses were about $6 billion while insured losses were about $1.7 billion, the Insurance Bureau of Canada reported earlier of the 2013 Southern Alberta floods.

In Winnipeg, which is situated on the confluence of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers, a 1950 flood resulted in damages of about $1 billion (adjusted to today’s dollar) and the evacuation of about 100,000, the Manitoba government reports.

A much larger flood hit Manitoba in 1997, but the number of properties affected was lower because much of the flood water was diverted into the Red River Floodway. In 1997, the Red River Floodway was expanded such that it is now designed to handle a one-in-700 year flood. Before 1997, the Floodway was said to be capable of handling a one-in-160 year flood.

Overland flood was generally not covered on residential property insurance policies until 2015, which is why insurance did not cover most of the economic losses from the 2013 Alberta floods.

Also in 2013, Toronto was hit July 8 by a torrential downpour that caused nearly $1 billion in sewer backup losses. The following year, Burlington, Ont. got hit with nearly seven inches of rain on the Civic Holiday weekend.

“I personally do not believe the Calgary floods, the Toronto floods, the Burlington floods – those are not the big floods,” Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, said this past April during Climate Change and the Financial Sector, a panel hosted by the Economic Club of Canada. “Those are a prelude to the bigger floods that are coming.”

Canadian society has to adapt to climate change “in quick order,” Feltmate added at the time.