Ian Huggett was right!
This headline is a stab at humour during a very distressing situation, “the floods of 2017”. So many readers and politicians are annoyed by environmentalists appearing to cry “the sky is falling”, but when the sky does fall, as it has this spring, we should recall and revisit our irritation with environmental warnings. Today they’re right. And they are often right, especially on the long view.
Ian Huggett was one of many who warned of building homes and condos on Fraser Road and along the shore of Wychwood – on floodplain. Maybe the builders and owners have maps showing no floodplain, or the city planners/ approvers can shut their eyes under the guise of “home-buyers beware”. But no one gets off free, the costs of natural disasters spread throughout our city, region, province and nation. Calgarians will be paying for flood damage in Gatineau, just as we paid a little for the flash-floods in Calgary a few years ago.
The question is how to avoid this in the future, and it’s hardly worth repeating that floodplains should be protected. It’s the home-buyers who will be protected. But municipalities, especially small ones, have difficulty enforcing guidelines and even regulations.
And there’s no regulatory way to deal with the general changes that are happening to our climate and to farming and building. Climate change must be taken into account in setting and updating planning and zoning guidelines. No debate!
Should municipal planners be held responsible for damages resulting from poor zoning decisions? That sounds draconian, but maybe it will stir a sense of responsibility among these civil servants. This includes approving big-pavement approvals, concrete spread-outs, buildings everywhere and green space (sponge-space, it should be called) destroyed. Drive along Boulevard des Allumettières!
One letter writer this week makes the point that these natural disasters can be helpful. Disasters are a bit like lab tests – they demonstrate in reality what will happen if certain practices are continued. Mr Almstedt’s suggestion is that municipal planners should be out systematically photographing and measuring the flooding, charting the river’s extreme-case shoreline. In small municipalities, charts and maps may not even exit, or are often out of date. New buildings, roads, dams, and parking lots go up and the old charts are unchanged. Farming changes from pasture, which absorbs and holds water, to cash-cropping corn and beans which means bare surface and big run-offs with lots of erosion. Change is constant. Trees cut, power lines added; orchards converted to feedlot operations, all that.
Lastly, home-buyers who want waterfront or want to build in sensitive zones have to be somehow re-educated. Often such folks respond to costs more than to moral appeals. For example, publicize insurance rates for floodplain construction – assuming the floodplain maps are not “corrected” to remove desirable shoreline from the floodplain. Many suggestions will appear, and then fade away, as the disaster fades . . . until the next calamity.