Fredericton leads Maritimes in flood preparedness, but it could do much better

·3 min read
Fredericton has experienced three major floods in the last decade, says Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien  (Patrick Morrell / CBC News - image credit)
Fredericton has experienced three major floods in the last decade, says Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien (Patrick Morrell / CBC News - image credit)

A new study suggest Fredericton is leading the Maritimes for flood preparedness, but there's still more work to be done.

In a national report on climate change and flood preparedness, led by the University of Waterloo's Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, Fredericton scored a B-.

"The city has done quite a good job on looking at how its rivers and streams and creeks overflowed, where the water would go during major storms," said Blair Feltmate, the head of the Intact Centre.

He said, while positive, Fredericton needs to plan further into the future as flood risks are consistently rising across the country, especially in the Maritimes.

"With climate change, we're seeing storms of greater frequency, greater magnitude, so we have to get used to handling more water."

Fredericton is ahead of most large cities in the report, which put the average preparedness score for selected cities at C plus.

Blair Feltmate says Fredericton performed "fairly well" in the report on flood preparedness.
Blair Feltmate says Fredericton performed "fairly well" in the report on flood preparedness. (Submitted by Blair Feltmate)

Feltmate said Fredericton earned its score because it's currently working to mitigate flooding within the sewage systems, is proactive in making sure infrastructure isn't built in areas vulnerable to flooding and has elevated roadways to prevent overflow.

The city improved its score from when it ranked a C in a 2015 study.

But, Feltmate said Fredericton needs to do more to help vulnerable residents understand the risks of flooding and how to mitigate them.

"This is an area the city is doing some work on now, but more work can be done going forward," he said.

Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien says the city has been working on increasing awareness for residents living near water, making sure each of these homes gets a visit from a firefighter who leaves them a pamphlet with information about flooding.

'We'll be doing it a little different fashion this year… because of COVID-19… it'll be through a social media campaign," said O'Brien.

Feltmate said Edmonton, which scored highest in the country, has a program where residents can request an evaluation of their home to find out where flood risks exist and how to mitigate damage.

"That would be an example of a really proactive program that perhaps Fredericton could engage as well," he said.

He said the city should consider hiring a chief resilience officer, who focuses entirely on mitigating environmental disaster.

Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien says the city has a very active emergency measures team.
Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien says the city has a very active emergency measures team.(Gary Moore/CBC)

"Someone who's looking at climate change, extreme weather events and one-stop shopping for how we best prepare for our city," he said.

"They have a lot of people who are very good and strong in their particular areas of expertise on dealing with aspects of extreme weather, another area might be to consider the creation of someone who is the repository of all that information."

Feltmate said a major challenge in conducting these studies is finding the right people to interview and collecting the necessary information. He's found it much easier to do so in cases where a city had a resilience officer.

He said 70 per cent of the 16 cities in the study have one.

O'Brien said Fredericton has a "very active" Emergency Measures Agency team that keeps a close eye on weather events in the city and some engineering staff who are experts in climate change.

"That's not to say we couldn't change names in the next little while to let the public know we're doing this," he said.

"We're confident we're doing well as far as leading the way in bringing policy forward and budgeting for adaptation and mitigation … this is something that begins and never ends."