Authorization deadline for Chaline Valley landslide stabilization work nears
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
Work to stabilize the landslide zone in Saint-Lazare’s Chaline Valley could be hampered if some residents decide against signing a work authorization document required by the provincial Ministry of Public Security.
Thirty-seven Saint-Lazare homeowners living within the Chaline Valley landslide zone who will be directly affected by proposed stabilization operations have up until February 6 to sign an agreement with the provincial Ministry of Public Security (MPS) at city hall to allow work to proceed on their properties.
A closed-door information meeting was held on January 22 exclusively for the homeowners by MPS representatives and town officials to hear details of what will and won’t be done on their property.
The MPS and town agree that the work is likely to proceed more quickly if everyone signs their authorization contract from the ministry. Until then, the MPS cannot give a date as to when the work can begin, said Saint-Lazare Communications Director Geneviève Hamel.
“The MPS said they can’t give a start date if they don’t have everybody’s signature. The purpose of this meeting was to make owners understand that they’ve asked the city to help and they’ve asked the government to help,” Hamel told The Journal during a telephone interview on January 28.
Project could be compromised
There is strong support for the stabilization project.
“A lot of people want the work to be done,” said Hamel. A possible snag, however, could compromise the project especially if three or four homeowners aren’t willing to sign the work order for their properties.
“The government will have to look at the impact on the project if people don’t sign. If some people refuse the government prevention program and a house is taken down in a landslide in that sector, the owners will be compensated no more than $200,000 per house and $50,000 for the land,” said Hamel.
What’s more troublesome for the town is the entire stabilization project could be compromised by a few holdouts.
“We have 21 sites to work on. So if four owners in four different sites don’t want the work done to their properties, then we won’t be able to do the work on the other homes in each site. This might compromise a portion or the entire project, added Hamel.
Financial aid program
To encourage homeowners to agree to the stabilization work, affected Chaline Valley residents are offered an $8 million financial aid package – $5.92 million from the MSP and $2.08 million from the town.
“The financial package is what homeowners need to agree on. Depending on how many people don’t sign, the project will either happen or it won’t. If people don’t sign, the MSP will have to look at everyone who signed to evaluate if the project is still feasible. If it’s not feasible, they’ll just take their money, go elsewhere and the work won’t be done,” said Hamel.
Lifting the landslide zone stigma
Another reason many homeowners want the work to proceed is because the stigma of having a property within a landslide zone would finally be lifted. “Once the land is stabilized, the government said they would remove the current constraint on a major portion of the land,” said Hamel.
Mayor Robert Grimaudo said this is what his administration has been trying to resolve for several years now.
“When it comes to the development plan at the MRC level which is submitted to the provincial government, a part of Chaline Valley is designated as a landslide risk zone area. When the stabilization work is complete, these people will have the opportunity to say they’re not in a landslide risk area,” said Grimaudo.
Experts at landslide mitigation
The MPS has become known in Canada as being experts in the type of landslide mitigation work required in Chaline Valley because the heavy clay soil composition is common throughout the Saint- Lawrence River Valley, according to Hamel.
“Most of the expertise is located in Quebec. They do stabilization work across the province and have financial aid for prevention purposes. They’re offering Chaline Valley residents an equitable opportunity to accept the project. But if someone wants specific things to be done on their property or take advantage of the program, that’s not possible,” said Hamel.
“It’s a matter of being equitable and providing the same program for everyone. As was explained at the meeting, the MPS can’t go to Notre-Dame-de-l’île Perrot (where previous land stabilization work was done in 2018) and add a feature to the project. It’s not fair to other people who didn’t have it. They keep the same specifics applicable to everybody no matter where the project is in Quebec,” Hamel added.