Homeowner flood-mitigation measures estimated at less than $10,000 per property

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Flood-ravaged homeowners will need to relocate wiring, seal basements against seepage and install sewer backup prevention devices if they want government help the next time water levels surge.

Provincial officials estimate it will cost less than $10,000 to protect the average residential property from being inundated again, an expense that Alberta’s disaster recovery program will cover along with damages from uninsurable losses.

Aimed at minimizing damage in a future event to homes in the flood fringe, the new building code measures announced this week include the following:

• Leaving basements unfinished or finishing them with materials such as pressure-treated studs, cement board and tile that are resistant to water damage.

• Moving the main electrical panel to the ground floor and isolating the circuits that feed outlets and equipment in the basement so that power can be restored quickly after a flood.

• Sealing pipe, wiring and conduits where they penetrate basement walls to minimize seepage into the building.

• Installing an approved backflow prevention device to prevent sewer water from backing up through basement drains and plumbing fixtures.

A spokesman for Alberta Municipal Affairs was unable to provide a detailed breakdown of the estimated costs for mitigation measures for a typical house or ballpark how many homes taxpayers will shell out to protect against a future flood.

But Tim Wilson said that in most homes, a backflow prevention device can be installed for less than $700, although he acknowledged some contractors may charge more if it’s necessary to jackhammer cement floors or foundations.

Relocating a home’s breaker box upstairs could cost up to $5,000, depending on the size and complexity of the project, Wilson said.

Federal disaster assistance to the province covers up to 15 per cent on top of basic repairs for mitigation measures, but Alberta government coffers will cover the additional cost if that funding is not enough.

All homeowners in the flood fringe — areas inundated but not in the river’s flow during a one-in-a-100-year event — will have a notice to that effect placed on their property title.

Those who get a disaster recovery payment will have that noted too, though it will be removed once a safety codes officer signs off that mitigation measures have been completed.

Officials with the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction were scrutinizing the province’s new mitigation measures Thursday, but they said it was too soon to pass judgment on their adequacy.

A 2013 report by the institute called on provinces to make sewer backup valves mandatory on all new homes and suggested governments provide subsidies to encourage homeowners to retrofit their properties with the devices.

During the June disaster, thousands of homeowners in southern Alberta suffered damage from backup after flood waters overwhelmed municipal drains.

While some, like Calgary’s Carol Knight, got payouts from their insurers that will cover part of the damage to their basements, they are ineligible for disaster funding because overland water didn’t directly affect their homes.

Knight, a single mother on a fixed income, feels Premier Alison Redford is reneging on her earlier promise of help to flood victims by forcing her to dig into her own purse now to cover the cost of protecting her house against a future disaster.

“Her government is dodging and creating more emotional stress and prolonging the trauma,” she said.

“My mother always told me not to count my chickens before they hatched.”

Story provided by:  www.edmontonjournal.com