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Hurricane Fiona one year later

Coastal mapping underway and donation cheques are in the mail

Cleanup in Burnt Islands following damage from Hurricane Fiona last year. Inclusion zone risk mapping is underway down the coast. – © René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press Inc.

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

  1. with files from René J. Roy

PORT AUX BASQUES — When Fiona devastated parts of Newfoundland and Labrador on Sept. 24, 2022, families were left without a roof over their heads and more questions than answers about federal and provincial assistance. Those residents with homes still standing didn’t know if they would be able to return to them permanently, because the province and towns announced that they would undertake vulnerable areas flood zone mapping. Structures located within that zone would also have to be removed to mitigate against future large scale weather events, like Hurricane Fiona. Even though this flood zone mapping occurred relatively quickly for the residents in Channel-Port aux Basques, that is not the case for all communities on the Southwest coast who are still awaiting answers. According to the Department of Environment and Climate change, those communities may not have to wait much longer. “The Department of Environment and Climate Change is currently undertaking a climate change flood risk mapping study for the Codroy Valley area and Southwest Coast communities of Rose Blanche-Harbour Le Cou, Isle aux Morts, Channel-Port aux Basques, Burnt Islands and Burgeo,” stated a representative last week in response to inquiries. “This study is the result of a cost-shared agreement between the Federal and Provincial Governments through the federal Flood Hazard Identification and Mapping Program and will include both coastal and riverine flood mapping on waterbodies of concern to the communities. Flood mapping will be developed for both current and future climate change conditions. “In July 2023, a LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging remote sensing technology) acquisition, necessary for developing the flood models, was completed. This technology will help generate a detailed digital elevation model of the areas being studied. “On July 31, 2023, a Request for Proposals for the flood risk mapping portion of the study was released, and submissions closing on September 11, 2023. The department is currently reviewing and evaluating the proposals received. “Once developed, all flood risk mapping will be made available online on the province’s Flood Mapping portal.” That news came as a welcome relief for some Burnt Islands residents, including Holly Keeping. “I was really relieved to hear about that. It could be a step in the right direction for us, whether they find ways to make our property safer. It could be the solution, or if they decide to move us — not that I want to be moved — but if it’s something that we got to do for our safety, well, that’s all we can do,” said Keeping. “I’ve been saying all along this is what we need, and I think it’s a good step in the right direction, and before it felt like we were left in the dark. I don’t know why they took so long to tell us. Just that reassurance of them saying, ‘This is what we’re going to do now. We’re going to do the flood mapping’, it makes you feel a little bit better, makes you feel that you’re not forgotten about.” Flood zone mapping isn’t the only question residents still want to answered. Funds donated directly for residents in the region through the Atlantic Edge Credit Union account and administered by a volunteer Hurricane Fiona Donations Committee have yet to be distributed. On Wednesday, Aug. 29, the Fiona Committee stated that they spent two months reviewing all the of the 257 applications for funding assistance, which encompassed communities from Cape Ray to Burgeo. Nadine Osmond, Town Clerk for Port aux Basques and a member of the Fiona Committee, said the cheques are ready to go out. “We’ve had a few meetings recently, and we wanted to get the money out this week, so we’ve been having more meetings, but Friday (Sept. 22) we will have some cheques ready to go out,” said Osmond. “We won’t have them all, but we will have a good selection ready to send out Friday, probably before lunch.” Affected residents had to submit their applications to qualify for monetary compensation from that fund. “We accepted applications up until June 30, so over the summer we got together a few times and kind of went over all of them together, not in detail, but then we divided them up, and everybody took their part in reviewing so many,” said Osmond. “Then we had a method of recording everything. We had an Excel document that we recorded all the different items that people had asked for and we tried to group some stuff together, of course, and then we kind of assigned caps to the certain categories.” A framework was developed based on what people lost in order to determine their compensation. “A lot of the applications really varied. You had some people ask for a small amount, and people who asked for — not necessarily that they asked for large amounts, but in their applications, they indicated that their loss was great — and I’m sure people are not expecting thousands of dollars. There’s not enough money to go around for that, but anybody who asked for a small amount is probably going to get what they asked for and anybody who indicated that they’ve lost a large amount, we’re going to try to give them what we can for the different items that they asked for,” said Osmond. “Obviously, we had to put some caps in place in order to stretch the money, make sure everybody got something.” The exact amount in the fund isn’t known because one portion hasn’t been transferred yet. “There were three pools of money that was put together into one account. I don’t have the total that the Salvation Army is transferring, so it’s roughly 1.2 million,” said Osmond. “It was money from individuals from across the island, probably some from Atlantic Provinces and across Canada, but it was quite a few corporations that donated as well.” There were various ways in which people were able to donate to the Hurricane Fiona Relief Fund. “A lot of people contacted the town, so we told them about our account at the Credit Union, and then the Lions Club had done a number of things, and when they had all of their money, the total on their money, then they transferred that over to the same account,” said Osmond. “That happened during the summer. I think that happened in July, and then the Salvation Army is working on transferring their portion over, because some people, if they wanted a receipt, then we couldn’t really provide them with a tax receipt. So that’s where the Salvation Army came in. Anybody that required a receipt, especially corporations, they donated to Salvation Army and it went directly to the Port aux Basques region. Once all the money gets amalgamated into the one account, it should be 1.2 million. I can’t give the exact figure because I’m not positive of the amount that Salvation Army is transferring over, but it’s a ballpark.” If anyone has any questions or concerns after they receive their cheque, they can reach out for more information. “I’m sure if they questioned it, then we could help explain the process a little bit more,” said Osmond. “We certainly will try to do that.”

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