Casgrain-Robertson: Flood prevention is cheaper than cleaning up after

By Sommer Casgrain-Robertson, Ottawa Citizen, May 9, 2019

As homeowners and municipalities look to clean up after another record flood on the Ottawa River, the need to prevent such damage from happening again and again is clear.

We don’t yet know how much the 2019 flood will cost, but we do know it will be much more than prevention would cost. Hundreds of homes were damaged, millions of sandbags were filled, residents evacuated their dwellings, public infrastructure was compromised, and military and government staff logged significant overtime. And don’t forget the incalculable loss of photo albums and family keepsakes floating in soggy basements, and the exhaustion of homeowners and volunteers fighting the rising water.

But it could have been worse. Without current regulations, more homes and businesses would have been built in the floodplain, meaning more buildings damaged and more people affected.

The good news is, prevention is possible and infinitely cheaper than recovery. All we have to do is invest in it.

Ottawa’s conservation authorities are a key part of preventing flood damage, as they’re responsible for mapping flood-prone areas, monitoring flood conditions, giving municipalities and residents advance warning, keeping infrastructure such as berms, dikes and dams in good working order, and prohibiting new development in flood zones. They also require homeowners in the floodplain to flood-proof their homes and septic systems when they rebuild, to prevent future damage.

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