FREDERICTON – New Brunswick flood victims may not be able to rebuild their homes – or only rebuild after significant mitigation efforts like raising them.
The destructive, record-setting spring floods along the Saint John River and other waterways have prompted measures aimed at preventing similar damage next time.
A cottage is surrounded by water from the Saint John River in Grand Bay-Westfield on Thursday, May 3, 2018. Swollen rivers across New Brunswick are still rising, flooding streets and properties and forcing people from their homes in several communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
“We are requiring property owners to submit plans that include new mitigation measures or design before permits will be issued,” Donaghy said.
About 12,000 properties were affected by flooding between late April and mid-May; dozens of homes are beyond any hope of repair.
The regulations require anyone intending to do work within 30 metres of a watercourse or wetland to first obtain a permit, Donaghy said.
“We are working with (homeowners) to seek options to build away from the waterways or wetlands if they can, and we are also looking for flood proofing plans as part of our review of their applications if building outside of that buffer is not an option,” he said.
The 2018 flood levels will become the benchmark.
Donaghy said some people may have to raise their homes, while some others won’t be allowed to rebuild.
“It really depends on what your options are. Are you repairing what you have, rebuilding, or building new? Different options would be acceptable,” he said.
Last month, Environment Minister Andrew Harvey said the new regulations are merely a starting point, as wider changes to municipal bylaws and zoning rules have to be considered in the wake of the province’s second major flood in a decade.
“As time goes on, those are decisions that are going to have to be made about zoning and about where people are building,” he said. “These are some tough decisions that will have to be made … and we as a government at some point in the future will have to look at the issue about zoning.”
The government says 2,627 people have registered damage for disaster financial assistance.
The federally backed program offers financial assistance for uninsurable losses, up to $160,000 per primary residence or non-profit organization, and $500,000 per small business. Cottage owners can get financial assistance up to $6,100 to help clean up their property.
Of those who registered for assistance, 1,871 requested a health and safety inspection. So far, 91 per cent of the inspections have been completed.
Lisa Munn, recovery services manager with the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, said 50 to 60 homes are beyond repair.
She said in some cases the province will buy the homes and properties, and no one will be able to build on those properties again in the future.
Allie Murchison, emergency management coordinator with the Canadian Red Cross, says at least 71 people remain in temporary housing, while others are staying with friends and family.
“We’re keeping them until they feel safe and ready to go home … and can get back on their feet,” she said.
The Red Cross has provided financial assistance to about 550 households using funds donated to the organization’s New Brunswick flood appeal, she said.
The Department of Transportation says all major transportation links have been re-established, but there are still a number of detours and five roads that remain closed.
Meanwhile agricultural officials said all farms hit by this year’s flooding say they expect to be able to plant this year.
Spokesman Kevin McCully said a visual inspection of the farms showed no sign of sewage or petroleum products in the fields. He said the flooding happened before seeding the fields, and the biggest concern for farmers was erosion.
Health officials earlier cautioned against eating fiddleheads or other food that could have been exposed to floodwaters.