Twelve adults and a five-month-old baby attended the M.D. of Lesser Slave River Sept. 14 council meeting, because Marten Beach flood mitigation was on the agenda.The adults all either live or have a summer cottage in the Hamlet of Marten Beach or Diamond Willow. These communities are in the northern part of the M.D. In recent years, it suffered two devastating floods.
Original article written by Joe McWilliams for the Lakeside Leader.
In 2020, the M.D. started a flood mitigation engineering study. The council package included 110 pages of information of this.
The first motion before council was to finish up the study with specific details on Option 5C – which is a berm to protect homes from Marten River. This includes having to buy out existing properties. These are divided into three categories: main home, summer cottage, or no permanent structure either vacant or campground.
Below are some details from the written report which give a brief history of the study and community engagement.
On June 24, 2022, Nichols Applied Management Inc. (the engineering firm) held an open house on the six options in the study. This was attended by Marten Beach residents and M.D. councillors.
On July 26, 2022, an email was sent out to property owners saying that Sept. 14 was the likely date that the M.D. would be able to publicly announce the selected option and next steps.
On August 17, 2022, council carried a motion to “direct administration to evaluate Option 5 of the Marten Beach Flood Mitigation with subsequent amendments and send a letter to the area residents with the status of the project,” says the written report. The letter was sent August 26 by email. The goal on Sept. 14 was “the formulation of a plan,” said CAO Barry Kolenosky.
“We take any decision after examining all of the facts,” said councillor Brad Pearson. “No matter what we do it’s going to affect some homeowners, and it’s going to cost a lot of money.”
“It’s not a hard line,” said councillor Nancy Sand.
The motions allow the M.D. to finish the study, “so we can go to the province,” said councillor Lana Spenser.
The study will “give us the ammunition to seek funding,” said councillor Pearson. One of the reasons the council is leaning toward Option 5 is safety.
“If it fails, it’s not going to hurt people,” said councillor Pearson. The last piece will give “a true picture where the berms would go,” said reeve Kerik.
Another possibility is relocating the communities away from the river, added council. The estimated cost of Option 5 for flood mitigation is $10.6 million, money which the M.D. does not have.
Prior to the open portion of the meeting on Marten Beach (and Diamond Willow) flood mitigation, council met with Nichols Applied Management for about an hour in closed session.
Reeve Murray Kerik mentioned in the open portion that the council had just learned that a federal grant which had looked promising is closed.
Reeve Kerik encouraged people to put pressure on Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn and Westlock – Peace River MP Arnold Viersen.
Every time he sees them he says, “bring us some money, let’s fix this,” he said.
A community members piped up to make sure that council knew to keep the landowner in the loop. Council agreed. Finding one contact person who can get the information to the rest of the community is best, said councillor Sand. “We thought we had that,” added councillor Sandra Melzer.
Council moved to proceed with an onsite survey for Option 5, stating that Option 5C – “whole channel narrowed” was the preferred option. Also, to seek funding and “impact option clarification from Nichols Applied Management at the next regular meeting of council.” Councillor Sandra Melzer made this motion. It passed without discussion.
Councillor Darren Fulmore made the second motion – “to direct administration to provide a draft set of flood mitigation development criteria and policy LUB (land use bylaw) amendments for the Marten Beach area, for consideration of approval at the next COW (Council of the Whole) meeting, utilizing the 200-year flooding events forecasts as the basic criteria for the area.” This also passed without discussion.
Prior to the discussion and decisions, Councillor Norm Seatter left the room as he owns property in Diamond Willow.