• James Armstrong

Quebec government’s flood zone mapping cause for anger and frustration


PHOTOS BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

More than 500 Vaudreuil-Soulanges citizens affected by the special flood zone map and building permit freeze expressed their frustration at a public consultation in Vaudreuil-Dorion on Thursday, July 4.

It was standing room only as approximately 500 Vaudreuil-Soulanges residents jammed into the Château Vaudreuil Hotel Pavilion on Thursday, July 4 to attend the presentation the of the Quebec government’s recent flood zone decree presentation. Many residents lined up at two microphones during the question period following the presentation to express their anger, frustration and disappointment with the freeze on all building permits in the existing zero to 20-year area, plus areas flooded in 2017 and 2019, and the accompanying interactive map purportedly identifying those areas. The map, published online when the decree containing the special planning zone (ZIS) was issued on Monday, June 17, erroneously included territory that was not flooded in 2017 or 2019 and isn’t part of the zero to 20-year flood zone.

Anger and frustration

Criticism, derision and suggestions of what should have been done were expressed in English and in French. Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot resident Robin Pope told the presentation panel, “The level of incompetence exhibited in dealing with this government made disaster is higher than the satellite used to make your useless map.”

According to Ministère de l’Environment et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MELCC) representative Nathalie Provost, the errors stemmed from satellite mapping images provided by the federal government. Provost and her counterpart, Directeur régional de la Montérégie for the Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Habitation (MAMH) Yannick Gignac patiently responded repeatedly the map would be updated and the errors corrected. Their standard response became, “If you are not in the zero to 20-year zone and you were not flooded in 2017 or 2019, your property will not remain in the ZIS.” However, the effect of the freeze on building permits and the perceived change to the flood zone has caused widespread confusion and anxiety affecting the sale of properties, renewal and purchase of home insurance, and mortgage applications.

Correcting the map

“How many people do you now have to clean up the monumental mess you created and how many weeks, months or years will it take you?” asked Pope. Provost replied several ministries and levels of government were involved in correcting the map. The freeze is expected to be lifted by mid-July when most of the corrections have been made to the map.

PHOTO BY JAMES ARMSTRONG

Resident Robin Pope (at the microphone) eloquently summed up the situation for Québec government during the public consultation held in Vaudreuil-Dorion.

Decree has far-reaching impact

Pope pointed out the panicked and irresponsible government measures have created hundreds, if not thousands, of additional economic victims who were never flooded.

“Our homes are our financial security and we won’t accept long delays. You have put the cart ahead of the horse,” said Pope adding, “ Please revoke your ridiculous decree until you can get your act together.”

Hudson resident June Penney also supported the withdrawal of the decree until such time as the government had the correct information. Penney noted that mid-July was 10 days away and she doubted there was sufficient time for the government to deal with the incoming information and correct the map. Following the publication of the order in July, municipalities and individuals will have the opportunity to comment on the revised flood mapping by emailing their concerns to zis2019@mamh.gouv.qc.ca. The deadline for submitting comments is August 19.

Planning and prevention

The presentation noted that in 2017, 293 municipalities in 15 regions were affected by flooding. In 2019, at least 250 municipalities in 16 regions experienced flooding. In 2017, more than 4000 people were evacuated and in 2019 that number rose to 10,000 people evacuated. As one resident pointed out, the difference between 2017 and 2019 was that residents learned to work together, to be prepared and carry out preventative measures in advance to protect their properties. Sealing foundation walls, installing hydrostatic pits to prevent basements from floating out of the ground, temporary or permanent dikes, and redirection of waterways were among the suggestions for improving the situation.

Investigate possible cause of floods

Upstream management of the Saint Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers was also a contentious issue connected to the effect of Hydro Quebec in the raising and lowering of water levels in retention basins associated with its hydroelectric power dams. It was suggested that was an area that needed investigation. The facilitator for the presentation, Duncan Campbell, assured everyone their questions, comments, concerns and suggestions were being heard. Provost confirmed Campbell’s response indicating she was taking notes of everything. Public consultations happened simultaneously in 25 locations across the province.

Maps of the 2017 and 2019 flood zones are available here.

Individuals were encouraged to contact their municipalities to verify whether or not their buildings are located in the ZIS. For further information, consult https://www.mamh.gouv.qc.ca/ministere/inondations-printanieres-2019-zone-dintervention-speciale/.

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