This year’s flood has taken a toll on more than just property: unhappy residents and cottagers are seeking fair compensation, building permits, answers and some are even pursuing a class action lawsuit. Arguments about climate change versus dam operators satisfy no one and do not lead to solutions.
The recent uproar across Québec about one solution, the new flood zone map – a special intervention zone (ZIS) – should be heard by the province as a call to build a fully comprehensive flood management plan, going beyond just issuing a map with new zoning.
Is the government trying to be fiscally responsible and restricting flood-related spending by redrawing the flood lines?
It is hard to dispute the need for this action, but it’s easy to argue the far-reaching
implications. Disallow building in cottage country, and the government may as
well close down the Pontiac. What kind of economic impact would that have across Québec? In many municipalities, cottagers outnumber residents and their contributions through land taxes and purchasing local services and goods are truly essential to the lifeblood of those communities.
Effective public policy is developed thoughtfully, and incorporates multiple
perspectives to account for different needs. More than just drawing lines on a map
that will guide bureaucrats, other professional disciplines need to contribute to a flood management plan: hydrologists, economists, environmentalists,climate experts, municipalities, emergency response personnel, engineers, land use planners and more.
Flooding is not just a water management issue.
It is a question of balancing the needs of many. Governments do this imperfectly to begin with, and in a rush to limit spending, a map is issued, but what about a long term plan and strategy? One that addresses all of the concerns: the need for hydro-electric power, to preserve the natural environment, to protect private and public property, and to account for the ongoing impact of climate change.
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Parts of the United States and Europe have implemented such strategies. Let’s look to these thoughtfully prepared plans, find out what is working and what recommendations other countries can make.
A good place to start is assigning the responsibility to a single Ministry, instead of three, to ensure clarity, purpose and focus. The climate will continue to change, and we have no choice but to adapt, but only a long-term plan and comprehensive strategy developed with the expertise of many will allow us to effectively adapt to changing climate and weather conditions. Short term solutions like a hastily drawn map just don’t cut it.