Flood mitigation the best approach

Thursday, May 23, 2019

In 2012, high water sent the northwestern New Brunswick village of Perth-Andover into a state of emergency. The village of close to 1,600 people issued a mandatory evacuation order to about 500 people living in low-lying areas. The flooding closed schools and the local hospital, forcing the transfer of many patients to other hospitals in the area and caused an estimated $25 million in damage.

Since the village's first major flood in 1976, at least 100 buildings have been destroyed, and the community is worried severe damage still lies ahead if something isn't done. 

In an attempt to take control of that change, the village council urged the province to develop a comprehensive adaptation plan after the 2012 flood. As a result, Perth-Andover is one of few communities in the province with a detailed plan to protect itself from future floods.

An engineering report after the major flood of 2012 recommended the Perth-Andover bridge be raised to prevent future ice jams. But it hasn't helped. The former government failed to implement it and current Premier Blaine Higgs has declared it too expensive.

But those who study flood mitigation say that decision could, itself, be costly because as flood events become more intense and more frequent, the cost of not acting will be even steeper.

Mitigation 'cost-effective'

When it comes to future flooding, Water Institute member Jason Thistlethwaite, a professor of environment and business with the University of Waterloo's Faculty of Environment, said mitigation is the best approach.

"There's a perception that the upfront costs of those is quite high," he said. "And that limits governments' willingness to fund them."

But research has found mitigation is "quite cost-effective," Thistlethwaite said.

Jason Thistlethwaite, an assistant professor of environment and business at the University of Waterloo, says mitigation is the most effective approach to avoiding flood damage in the future.

"So … flood mitigation, taking the actions that you need before the risk materializes, and before the water bursts its banks, is definitely the right approach," he said.

"For every dollar you spend on that type of mitigation, you save anywhere between six to 10 in comparison to the cost of repairing the damage."

Read the full article from CBC News.

Flood Image

An aerial view of the Perth-Andover hospital during the 2012 flood, which forced 500 people to leave their homes. 
(Government of New Brunswick)

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