Freeze! Province’s new flood zone map to stop any construction

Chris Lowrey
CAMPBELL’S BAY July 4, 2019
The Campbell’s Bay RA was standing room only on July 4 as more than 400 people crammed the sweltering hall to voice their concerns about the province’s new flood map.
In the new flood map, the province created Special Intervention Zones (ZIS), which put a freeze on any construction or re-construction on any structures within the zones.
The freeze came into effect when the map was released on June 17 and includes massive swaths of the Pontiac.
The July 4 public consultation was originally intended to be an information session where staff from Quebec’s Ministry of the Environment would explain the reasons for the ZIS and what they mean for residents.
But just hours before the meeting, the government decided that it would give residents the chance to give feedback and the government will take their concerns into consideration when it adjusts the map in mid-July in an official decree.
Residents have until Aug. 19 to submit their feedback to the province by sending an email to zis2019@mamh.gouv.qc.ca
The province hopes to elaborate on the changes to land use and planning by December, 2019.
Pontiac Liberal MNA André Fortin said he was skeptical that the government will incorporate the feedback it gets from residents in its updated flood map.
“At first glance, the Aug. 19 deadline is complete hogwash because [the province] already has a permanent map they’re coming out with next week,” Fortin said. “There really is no mechanism review that map after next week.”
In the meantime, many businesses and residents have been left sitting on their hands as they wait for the new map.
Fortin called the map “poorly thought-out” and said the province needs to go back to the drawing board. He said it’s unclear where the ministry of the environment got the data it used for the new map.
He pointed to the fact that nearly half of the residences in Campbell’s Bay are now in a ZIS and their property assessments will be affected.
“What the government of Quebec is doing is extending the 0-20 year floodplain and affecting the biggest investment anyone will ever make,” Fortin said.
He also took the province to task for not allowing cottagers and other non-permanent residents to get access to the $200,000 of relief funds that permanent residents are eligible for.
“The government is not helping (cottagers) with real dollars and that’s one thing,” Fortin said. “But now the government is telling them they can’t rebuild.”
MRC Pontiac Warden Jane Toller was also on hand and characterized the map as an “overreaction” on the part of the province.
She also pointed to a lack of communication between the provinces that share the Ottawa River as a border.
She said she spoke to representatives from the Ontario government at a flood consultation in Pembroke and they confessed that they had no idea what Quebec’s plans were.
“We want urgency,” Toller said. “The next flood is nine months away, I say let’s do something now.”
Toller has called for a new assessment to be carried out on the dam and reservoir network on the Ottawa River. She said she was told that the last major assessment was carried out in 1980.
She also requested that the government look into building a new reservoir on the Ottawa River between Temiscamingue and Rapides des Joachims.
At the meeting, provincial representatives said that the ZIS will be in effect until the new map is released in mid-July and the new flood plains are incorporated into municipal bylaws. The province said the ZIS was necessary in order to create special planning zones to better manage flood plains and to prevent a “race” by homeowners to get a permit before the government can re-draw the flood plains.
While many residents now find themselves in a newly created flood zone, they can contact their municipality to inquire about an exception to the ZIS. But the province hasn’t made it clear what criteria have to be met in order to qualify for an exemption.
For instance, the province’s explanatory document about the ZIS says that “works to maintain land in good condition, to maintain, repair, modernize or demolish existing structures and undertakings, provided the flood-prone area of the land does not increase as a result of the works.”
In other words, minor works in flood-prone areas will be allowed but only work that maintains the land in good shape, the installation of septic installations for existing structures or to demolish an existing structure.
It’s also possible to repair a building that is not considered a total loss – where the cost of the damage is less than 50 per cent of its assessed value. However, major work must include flood-proofing measures.
Those flood-proofing measures must meet the stipulations that no opening (windows, doors, etc.) can be lower than the 100-year flood elevation; no first floors are allowed under the level of the 100-year flood elevation; no habitable room such as a bedroom or living room can be built in a basement.
For those in the ZIS who wish to carry out work on their residence, a damage assessment must be carried out to determine if water reached the first floor, the foundation must be replaced or if stabilization work needs to be carried out.

The Campbell’s Bay RA was standing room only as more than 400 people filled the sweltering hall on July 4 to voice their concern with the province’s new flood map.

Pontiac Liberal MNA André Fortin was on hand to advocate on behalf of local residents.

 

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