Flooding in Grand Forks’ North Ruckle neighbourhood, the hardest hit by catastrophic flooding in May 2018. (Kathleen Saylors/Grand Forks Gazette)

Buyouts proposed for Grand Forks flood victims

Local city council endorsed a plan Tuesday that includes buying out as many as 100 homes.

As many as 100 homes in Grand Forks could be receiving flood-related buyouts after a landmark decision by city council following catastrophic flooding in May. While not yet finalized, the value of buyouts and flood protection measures proposed and endorsed by the City of Grand Forks council is in the neighbourhood of $60-million.

After a series of closed meetings and workshops, council made public a decision on Tuesday night endorsing recovery “directions” for each of the neighbourhoods within city limits directly impacted by flood waters in May of this year.

For the 62 homes in North Ruckle, the neighbourhood hit hardest by floodwater, council endorsed a complete neighbourhood buyout. The land is expected to be returned to the floodplain.

In other areas, council endorsed some selected buyouts for high-risk homes, but also proposed elevating low-risk homes to above flood levels, raising infrastructure including critical roads, building three new dikes and armouring the existing river banks.

Current estimates are that between 80 and 100 homes could be affected by a buyout. Nearly 400 homes were directly impacted by flooding.

These decisions apply only within city limits, and do not include homes in the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary. The RDKB board is expected to make a decision on recovery direction for homes in the regional district in the coming weeks.

The recommendations are based on a river study, known as a hydrological survey, prepared by Dobson Engineering. This study has widely been considered pivotal for recovery efforts, and will guide the way forward for recovery, rebuilding and future land use.

Any and all buyouts and flood protection measures requested by the city are contingent on provincial approval and funding. Council made these decisions in order to put forward a proposal to the province with a dollar figure attached, several councillors said. From there, the province will approve or change the plan dependent on funding.

That figure is estimated at around $60-million, but that is not set in stone: that figure is plus/minus 50 per cent at this time. Further study and site-specific consultation will refine the total estimate, as well as the number of homes that will be subject to a buyout. The estimate is expected to be refined to within 15 per cent.

The city would bear little of those costs; the majority of funds would come from provincial and federal grants and partnerships.

“Council made a tough decision looking to the future” said Mayor Frank Konrad. “Residents needed us to look out for their best interest. We chose the safest options rather than the cheapest because we never want to repeat the flooding we had this year,” Konrad said in a press release issued by the Boundary Flood Recovery team shortly after the council decision.

The specifics of the buyout program, including homes in specific neighbourhoods other than North Ruckle subject to buyout, will be finalized in the next year. The overall project implementation will take the next four years, according to the flood recovery team.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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