Disappointments and concerns - Government consults public on “exaggerated” floodplain map

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Added: Wed, 07/17/2019 - 9:16pm
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Lionel Tessier and Allyson Beauregard

CAMPBELL'S BAY ­– A record crowd turned out at the public consultation on the provincial government’s draft floodplain map organized by the Ministry of Public Security at the Campbell’s Bay RA Hall, July 4. According to the
organizers, about 500 people attended, but many more were unable to participate because of a lack of space in the hall.
At the beginning of the meeting, Annie Perreault from the Ministry explained that the objective of the meeting was to consult the public and gather input on a draft Special Intervention Zone Decree (floodplain map) and that the participants' comments will be included in the revised and final versions. She noted that the 2017 flood affected approximately 5,000 Québec homes while more than 7,000 were affected in 2019.
The Special Intervention Zones place a freeze on any renovation or reconstruction on affected properties until permanent flood zones maps are produced.
Those present spoke calmly despite their frustrations and dissatisfaction with the report. Some thanked the authorities, municipal councils, and local fire departments for the quality and speed of their interventions. However, most speakers highlighted the concerns and difficulties caused by the recent floods.
Many citizens blame at least a portion of the responsibility for the severe flooding on the poor management of the Ottawa River’s water levels by those mandated to control them, including Hydro Québec and Hydro One.
Several residents emphasized that the new floodplain map isn’t accurate on the ground and that their property values will decrease because they are mistakenly included in the flood zone. Ministry officials indicated that a revised map will be published for consultation prior to the adoption of the decree on August 19.
Gilles Dionne, Mansfield’s mayor, stressed that the role of authorities is to protect people and their properties. His municipality will prepare its own version of the floodplains in its municipality which, they expect, should guide the Ministry’s version.
He also pointed out, as did several others, that the compensation measures offered by the government don’t take into account the significant losses suffered by owners of secondary residences (cottages), many of whom suffered major damage.
Participants asked why the Ministry is in such a hurry to adopt the decree and demanded that an independent inquiry be done to truly understand the causes of this spring's floods. Others stressed the importance of planning special measures to minimize future damage likely to be caused by floods and other natural disasters, as predicted by climate change experts.
Mayors furious
Prior to the meeting, Pontiac MNA André Fortin, MRC Pontiac mayors, and Joanne Labadie, mayor of the Municipality of Pontiac, held a press conference outside the building to express their frustration with the map as it currently stands and how,
if adopted as is, it will significantly impact rural regions.
“The government has gone a lot further than they said they would, drawing all over the map. Areas that were never flooded have been included, so we are asking the government to review the map and consider rural impacts,” said Fortin, noting reduced property evaluations and future development potential will have a huge impact on the financial base of Pontiac municipalities that are already strained.
Cottage owners generate a large portion of tax revenue for many of the MRC Pontiac’s municipalities including the Municipality of Pontiac; these people are ineligible for government compensation and may choose to leave if the new floodplain map prevents them from rebuilding or renovating, also the case with permanent residents.
“This is a poorly-thought-out and exaggerated decree. The Pontiac just experienced the biggest disaster since our mills closed, but instead of standing with us, the government is forgetting us and turning [the region] into a flood zone. The only thing we accept is the 0-20 year mark because it makes sense,” said MRC Pontiac Warden Jane Toller, stating the MRC is advocating for another
northern reservoir, increased cooperation between Québec and Ontario, and local
management for the river system.
Residents and cottagers have until August 19 to send their comments,
suggestions, corrections and recommendations to the Ministère de la Sécurité publiques du Québec at: zis2019@mamh.gouv.qc.ca.