+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 6-23F

Expediting the Implementation of an Alberta Flood Regulation

Date:
November 8, 2023
Expiry Date:
December 1, 2026
Active Status:
Active
Sponsors:
Woodlands County
District:
3 - Pembina River
Year:
2023
Convention:
Fall
Category:
Environment
Status:
Intent Not Met
Vote Results:
Carried
Preamble:

WHEREAS several devastating floods have occurred in Alberta in recent years, resulting in significant economic and societal impacts, property damage, and environmental loss; and

WHEREAS long-term flood planning and mitigation strategies, formalized through effective flood regulations, are essential for building resilience against future flood risks and safeguarding Alberta’s communities, properties, and natural resources; and

WHEREAS Alberta’s existing regulatory framework does not sufficiently address flood prevention and mitigation; and

WHEREAS the Flood Recovery and Reconstruction Act (the Act) received Royal Assent in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta in 2013; and

WHEREAS the Act empowers the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations under multiple Acts to support improved floodway development, land use planning, emergency response, and address other flood-related issues and risks; and

WHEREAS none of the regulation-making powers allowed under the Act have been implemented to this point; and

WHEREAS executing the Act’s regulation-making powers would fortify Alberta’s defense against future floods; and

WHEREAS the Act seeks a holistic approach to flood management in Alberta, covering prevention, mitigation, emergency response, and recovery; and

WHEREAS the swift implementation of the regulation-making power afforded under the Act would enhance Alberta’s resilience to flood risks, by enabling the development of robust floodplain maps, improving land-use planning, ensuring the construction of flood-resilient infrastructure, fostering public awareness and education related to flood risks, and instilling more confidence in flood resiliency among homeowners and businesses;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) advocate to the Government of Alberta (GOA) to develop and implement the regulations allowed under the Flood Recovery and Reconstruction Act; and

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the RMA advocate to the GOA to coordinate an approach among relevant agencies and stakeholders to ensure swift regulation development and implementation, the allocation of sufficient resources and funding for infrastructure and public awareness, and a commitment to regular assessment and refinement of the regulations.

Member Background:

In a proactive stance towards responsible development in flood-prone areas, Woodlands County engaged Northwest Hydraulic Consultants Ltd. (NHC) in June 2012. The purpose was to carry out a flood hazard identification study for areas near Whitecourt, encompassing portions of the Athabasca and McLeod Rivers. The study area included a short reach of the Athabasca River, upstream of the Athabasca-McLeod River confluence; the McLeod River, upstream of the confluence; and the Athabasca River, downstream of the confluence. However, the study did not include those areas within and alongside the Town of Whitecourt. The study was subsequently expanded in July 2013 to include the confluence through the Town of Whitecourt under a separate contract funded by the former ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resources.  While Woodlands County shouldered the financial burden for the study within its own boundaries, the combined findings were documented in the final report dated March 26, 2015. It was not until 2023 that the flood hazard identification maps, crafted in 2015, gained official approval from the Government of Alberta (GOA).

During this time the GOA amended the Municipal Government Act in December 2013 by enactment of Bill 27, Flood Recovery and Reconstruction Act, providing for regulation making powers for controlling, regulating or prohibiting any use or development in a floodway; and a provision to exempt floodway development in municipalities with significant development already in a floodway. It has been 10 years and municipalities are still being impacted by the occurrence of floods and experiencing devastation of infrastructure and exorbitant cost to repair that infrastructure. Residents of Woodlands County affected by the flood hazard mapping, especially those owning land parcels identified within a floodway that are now restricted from development, along with owners of parcels in flood fringe areas (who are uncertain about development standards), continue to await clear guidance and assurances on permissible development within the identified flood hazard zones.

Strong flood regulations, coupled with proactive measures, will safeguard our communities, protect our environment, and ensure the long-term sustainability and wellbeing of Alberta.

RMA Background:

RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.

Government Response:

Alberta Environment and Protected Areas

Municipal Affairs is the lead ministry responsible for developing regulations under the Municipal Government Act. During my November 8, 2023, meeting with Woodlands County representatives, Municipal Affairs noted there is no intention to move forward with an Alberta flood regulation at this time.

Environment and Protected Areas maps flood hazard areas as part of provincial flood studies managed by the Flood Hazard Identification Program. I commend Woodlands County for integrating existing flood hazard map information into local land-use decisions and assure you the department continues to support all provincial flood map products.

Municipal Affairs

Regulation of floodway development is a complex matter that involves a delicate balancing of public safety, financial liability, and private property rights. Limitations on development of private property in floodways restrict real property rights. Floodway development rules may also limit future use and potentially require significant financial compensation to affected landowners.

The Government of Alberta has addressed floodway risks by focusing on initiatives such as revising the Disaster Recovery Program to disincentivize redevelopment in the floodway. Other actions by the Government of Alberta and municipalities have included infrastructure-based flood mitigation, limiting provincial disaster financial liability, and improved emergency response capabilities to reduce the risks to public safety and mitigate the financial risks associated with development in floodways.

Municipalities have the legislative authority to regulate development in the floodway via local bylaws. As of 2022, 70 per cent of the 135 municipalities that have been provided final provincial flood maps reference these maps in their land-use bylaws and address development within local floodways.

Development:

Responses from Alberta Municipal Affairs and Alberta Environment and Protected Areas (EPA) indicate no intention of moving forward with a provincial flood regulation at this time.

The Flood Recovery and Reconstruction Act provides the GOA with the ability to map floodways, restrict floodway development, prepare emergency response plans, and more. Working with municipalities and other stakeholders to enable some or all of these powers through a province-wide regulation under the Flood Recovery and Reconstruction Act would ensure that municipalities have the necessary resources available to prepare for and recover from imminent flooding, and reduce risks to developers, property owners, and other stakeholders.

RMA understands that much like any regulatory changes impacting land use and development, implementing a provincial flood regulation comes with risks and potential liabilities for the province. However, continuing to take a sporadic and disjointed approach to discouraging floodway development is even riskier as it contributes to a lack of understanding of risks, rules, etc. by landowners and municipalities. RMA is frustrated by the fact that enabling legislation was passed over 10 years ago, and the Government of Alberta is still unwilling to even engage in an in-depth consultation on how a regulation could be developed in a way to mitigate current gaps in provincial and municipal regulation of development.

RMA assigns this resolution a status of Intent Not Met and will continue to advocate on this issue.

Provincial Ministries:
Environment and Parks,
Municipal Affairs
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