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No Phase 3 for Fiona recovery

Town of PAB says it’s had few inquiries into pre-fab or mini homes

Water Street East looking towards Channel Head after Hurricane Fiona. These houses in the foreground have since been demolished. – © René J. Roy / Wreckhouse Press Inc.

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter PORT AUX BASQUES — With the first anniversary of Hurricane Fiona in the rear view mirror, some residents are still struggling to find answers about what’s coming next when it comes to pending demolitions or financial compensation. According to a report by Christian Aid in the U.K., the damage resulting from Hurricane Fiona is among the 10 most expensive climate disasters of 2022. The hurricane, which struck the Caribbean and Canada in September 2022, is factored into a series of climate disasters that resulted in losses currently valued at more than $3 billion. “Having ten separate climate disasters in the last year that each cost more than $3 billion points to the financial cost of inaction on the climate crisis. But behind the dollar figures lie millions of stories of human loss and suffering. Without major cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, this human and financial toll will only increase,” said Patrick Watt, CEO of Christian Aid. “The human cost of climate change is seen in the homes washed away by floods, loved ones killed by storms and livelihoods destroyed by drought. This year was a devastating one if you happened to live on the front line of the climate crisis.” Through the Hurricane Fiona Recovery Fund (HFRF), the federal government will provide up to $300 million over 2 years to support local communities and businesses affected by the storm and to help long-term recovery efforts. This relief started in September 2022, shortly after the storm dissipated. The HFRF is a support measure that was put in place to fill gaps for those who may not qualify under their insurance or other existing federal and provincial support measures, like their respective province’s disaster financial assistance. “The Fund is coordinated by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), which is working with other federal departments and agencies to address and determine local recovery needs, develop targeted initiatives to assist in recovery and rebuilding, and allocate funds accordingly to the departments and agencies that will deliver their portion of the HFRF.” On Sept. 25, residents of communities along the Southwest coast, outside of Port aux Basques, stated that they felt left behind because they are still waiting to hear what is going to happen for them. At that time, the Department of Environment and Climate Change shared that it is currently undergoing a 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, which was a welcome update for many residents. “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.” Despite that reassurance, questions and confusion remained. Most recently there have been rumours that there will be a Phase 3 to the Hurricane Fiona recovery plan. Other rumours speculated that homeowners who choose to rebuild, for example in the Dennis’ Road new subdivision area, will have a full year to vacate their properties under Phase 2, not a matter of months as initially believed. In addition, there has been considerable speculation that homeowners who had received funding for home repairs under Phase 1 would fall through the financial cracks. As part of the Phase 1 agreement, homeowners were advised that if they completed repairs, even over the 2022-2023 winter months so that they could continue living in their homes, they would not be compensated for those repairs. Some of those same homeowners who completed Phase 1 repairs are now facing a mandatory demolition order under Phase 2, and the fear is that the Phase 1 repairs will not factor into the home’s value during the next assessment. On Tuesday, Oct. 24, the Department of Justice and Public Safety responded to media inquiries. “To date, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has spent approximately $52 million on the Hurricane Fiona Financial Assistance Program. We continue to collaborate with the Federal Government, southwest coast communities and community partners on other outstanding matters. “For the properties in the Hurricane Fiona Impact Zone, the adjuster assessment process is on-going and claimants will be contacted in the New Year as assessments are completed and reviewed by JPS staff. For residents to be provided a financial compensation package, they must agree to relocate within 90 days of receiving their financial offer, or within one year of receiving their financial offer if rebuilding. “Residents in the impact zone who experienced damage to their homes during Hurricane Fiona, and required repairs in order to remain in their homes were advised to reach out to Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangement (DFAA) staff to discuss their file. “All complete disaster financial assistance applications were assigned to independent adjusters registered with the Canadian Independent Insurance Adjusters Association. Applicants are required to disclose any insurance proceeds received relating to their property damage. While the department cannot speak to individual cases, where eligible, applicants will be compensated based on the assessment completed by the independent adjuster.” Town Manager Leon MacIsaac also said there are no plans for a Phase 3 that he is aware of. “There are no discussions that I am aware of between town and any member of the province over Phase 3. There are 82 homes, to date, as result of the original phase (Phase1) structure, which were the homes that were heavily damaged or completely destroyed by Hurricane Fiona. There’s a further 59, I believe, is coming in that second phase,” said MacIsaac. “We have yet to receive the information on where that flood zone buffer would be. I don’t know. The province is working on it. I haven’t seen the buffer or where it probably lies. We had discussions earlier last year, but to date I haven’t seen what that buffer zone would look like.” There are a number of developments currently in progress in Port aux Basques. “There are 53 lots in development. The consultant has the drawings completed from Water and Sewer Servicing. The surveyors provide a quote for the legal surveys for the lots, and we’re currently in discussions with the federal provincial department to ensure the funding is in place to proceed,” said MacIsaac. “So that new development will have its own septic design and that as well, the new water booster pumping station at Dennis’ Road will be all part of the incorporation at new subdivision developments.” The auctions are advertised, but individual families aren’t reached out to beforehand. “We don’t reach out individual people — because people change their mind so often — and see whether or not they’re still interested, but once we put out (notices), anybody’s indicated and interested, the girls will typically get back to them, but we can’t possibly get to everyone. If you’re interested in the subdivision, please keep your eye on… there’s Facebook, the Town’s webpage. We update with the Wreckhouse Weekly. If you’re not paying attention any of those sites, then really we don’t know what your interest would be,” said MacIsaac. “Right now the last auction we had, we never had sufficient people show up to take every lot. We had indicated people were still going to subdivide, but every lot that was there at that time was taken by people who lost their homes and also by developers who are building homes for people who lost their homes, because anybody acquiring lot some needs to have a builder. Whether you go a modular home or whatever it may be, somebody’s still got to put in your foundation.” Prefab homes could be a potential development as well. “Prefab homes are the same as any other home. They’re modular homes. Prefab, you put them in, they look same as any other home. If you’re putting in a mini home, as noted, people have asked to date, mini homes are permitted, but you have to go in on the street, designate it for mini homes. People often previously referred to them as like a trailer home, but mini homes are built to the same standards any other home as well, but they have to go in on a subdivision or a street specifically designed for mini homes, and it’s not to segregate them, but that’s the way our municipal plan is worded, and a lot of municipal plans are because they’re meant for a narrow lot design that typically don’t work in all the subdivisions,” said MacIsaac. ”If there is a sufficient interest, the town certainly would look at it. We’ve already noted that in the council meetings, that the town will certainly look at it. We may have had one or two requests, but that’s not sufficient numbers to warrant a full street for mini homes.” The main concern for the town is the length of time involved. “We’d hoped to be farther along than this, but given the latest construction season, if we have a great winter, we’re still going to move forward. But the weather during the winters can determine how quickly that will move because construction companies typically don’t work through the winter months,” said MacIsaac. “It just makes the problems that they encounter much more cumbersome than they really should be.”

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