PUBLISHED: 17 December 2013

Flood Mitigation: Relocation

What is relocation? 

In the event of a flood, citizens are able to relocate their homes to higher ground or areas outside of the floodway. Typically, this act of clearing the floodway is a recovery activity that helps to minimize future damage. 

How does this option help to mitigate the impacts of a flood?  

While relocation normally occurs after the event of a flood, this option does help to mitigate potential damage and destruction of future floods. Clearing the floodway of homes and businesses ensures that damage and high costs can be avoided in floodways while making room for rivers to flow along their natural course[1]

Is relocating already done in Alberta?

After Alberta’s June 2013 flooding, the Disaster Recovery Program (DRP) allowed homeowners to apply for relocation compensation. This meant citizens living within the floodway were eligible to relocate to an area of their choice outside of the floodway[2]. Of the 250 people eligible in Alberta to relocate their homes, approximately 10% agreed with the government’s offer of a buy-out. Homeowners who have chosen to stay in the floodway will be ineligible for disaster assistance in future floods[3]. Applications for the relocation program have been extended to August 30th 2014.

What level of government is responsible? 

The Government of Alberta provided the option of relocation to citizens whose homes were in the floodway and majorly impacted. Funding was provided through the Disaster Recovery Program (DRP) which, is managed by the provincial government[4].  

Does this policy account for differences between jurisdictions? 

Yes. In order to relocate, citizens must have owned property within the floodway. Citizens living outside of the floodway were ineligible for relocation funding from the government. For example, communities located along the Elbow River in Calgary and Highwood River in High River were provided relocation funding while citizens living in the flood fringe near those rivers were ineligible[5].

What is the scale and boundary of this policy? 

This relocation policy was offered by the Government of Alberta for people impacted in the 2013 floods in southern Alberta. To be eligible, citizens must have been living in the floodway at the time of the flood event. While more people could have accepted the provincial government’s offer to buy-out property, many decided to stay in their communities. 

What are the enforcement measures? 

This policy was not enforceable. Citizens living in the floodway were able to decide if they wanted to relocate and where. They could also decline the offer. 

What are the effects on the surrounding environment and watershed? 

Relocating homeowners to areas outside of the floodway is a step towards clearing the floodplain of developments and turning this land into a natural area. In doing so, water is able to move freely without causing extensive damage to property, developments and the surrounding environment. Essentially, relocating homes helps to make room for rivers and return the floodplain to its natural state. In order for this policy to be fully effective, however, all developments should be relocated[6].  

Would relocation help in a drought? 

No, relocation policies are only effective for reducing flood damage. 

[1] Gerson, Jen. “Rebuild or Relocate? Devastating Alberta floods have some wondering if its time to move communities off floodplains.” The National Post. Published, July 14, 2013. Accessed December 12, 2013. 

[2] “Relocating after flooding.” Alberta Government. Updated September 27, 2013. Accessed December 12, 2013.

[3] “Alberta Flood Relocation Program: Less than 10% of Albertans in flood zone have agreed to move.” Published October 28, 2013. Accessed December 12, 2013.

[4] “Relocating after flooding.” Alberta Government. Updated September 27, 2013. Accessed March 7, 2013.

[5] Ibid. 

[6] Komarnicki, Jamie. “Majority of homeowners reject government flood buyouts.” Calgary Herald. Published December 2, 2013. Accessed March 7, 2014.