Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Documents Show Many Cities Are Wary of Mapping Flood Risks, Making Data Public

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Documents Show Many Cities Are Wary of Mapping Flood Risks, Making Data Public

Article excerpt

Wary cities pushed to map flood risks

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OTTAWA - When municipal officials were told last year about new tools to help them map the risk of flooding in their communities, they immediately raised red flags, suggesting they wanted no part of it over concerns about legal liability and political backlash.

Details contained in internal government reports echo a narrative across the country that show just how wary some city leaders have been about mapping -- and publicizing -- flood risks in their communities.

As one municipal official put it, they fear releasing the information would force them to use the Tim Hortons drive-up window to avoid the ire of those inside the restaurant.

The stance has mystified insurance industry representatives and local leaders who have been pushing municipalities to use new mapping tools to identify risk areas and make that information public.

"The big business case for this is we can all pay a lot more for insurance and experience the disruption, or we can invest in the infrastructure and experience less disruption to the economy and to families and lower insurance premiums," said Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, head of FCM's big city mayors' caucus.

"We can learn from these disasters and actually model out where it would make sense to get ahead of the problem."

The questions about what local officials don't know and why they don't want to know it have been raised anew with flood waters overwhelming communities in Quebec and Ontario.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada created a mapping tool to figure out where there was the greatest risk of flooding, either from rising waters or overwhelming rainfall. A Calgary-based company, Tesera, is in the process of getting it ready for wider distribution.

At a session on disaster-proofing communities at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference last June, some delegates appeared to want nothing to do with the mapping tool.

A report from officials at Infrastructure Canada said that a delegate from one city worried that mapping flood risk could reduce property values in flood-prone areas where infrastructure solutions weren't feasible. …

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