Flood hazard map to guide development in Mountain View County

Mountain View County plans to use a long-awaited provincial flood hazard map to guide future development decisions near the Red Deer River.

Mountain View County plans to use a long-awaited provincial flood hazard map to guide future development decisions near the Red Deer River.

Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development flood consultants have completed a draft flood hazard map for a low-lying area known as McDougal Flats southwest of Sundre.

The county plans to use that map in its planning documents to guide future development decisions.

Margeretha Bloem, director of planning and development services, said the map takes into account recent flooding history that has seen areas previously spared fall victim to high river levels.

“What is really important to remember is we’re not introducing new policies and new restrictions. It’s just that we’re inserting the map.”

For instance, new development was not permitted in floodways previously and flood fringe developments faced restrictions, such as a ban on basements and other measures to protect homes.

Before the province set out to map Alberta’s flood hazards several years ago, the county relied on a loose definition of “flood-prone areas” to determine when a development application required additional scrutiny.

In those cases, the onus was on the applicant to demonstrate where the floodway and flood fringe was at their location.

The county has been waiting for the province to finalize the flood hazard map to clearly identify areas at risk.

Without that guide to the most flood-prone areas, the county was reluctant to approve developments in potentially risky areas. Rather than make a mistake, a moratorium on new development in McDougal Flats was brought in last November and extended in February.

On June 24, a public hearing will be held on the county’s plan to amend the Municipal Development Plan, Land Use Bylaw and a pair of area structure plans to include the flood hazard map.

Bloem said it’s hoped that Alberta Environment will finalize the draft map by the public hearing.

“If they only finalize the mapping after the 24th, then we’ll have to redo the public hearing to insert the map,” she said.

Lurking in the background is the province’s announced plan to develop new regulations for developing in floodways. It was a commitment made after devastating floods in 2013.

It is unclear when those new rules — which could require changing municipal regulations — will be unveiled.

“If the province brings out this regulation that’s more restrictive than what we have, we will have to amend all of our documents to abide by that regulation,” she said.

Not all residents have been happy with the process. Some opposed the size of the area subject to the moratorium, and was later reduced when more detailed information came forward.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com