Quebec issues moratorium on construction and reconstruction of buildings in high-risk flood zones

According to the Quebec government, the major floods that occurred in the spring of 2019 in several regions of Quebec affected more than 250 municipalities, flooded thousands of homes, forced the evacuation of more than 10,000 people and led to the closure of several roads.

On May 1st,  a ministry action group on the floods was established, with a mandate to ensure the prompt care and compensation of those affected and to prepare the government and stakeholders to cope with the floods that could occur in 2020.

Following the major floods this spring, the Québec government intends to promote more rigorous management of flood-prone areas. The aim is to limit the exposure of people and property to possible floods, while highlighting sustainable solutions.

The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, M me  Andrée Laforest, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Minister Jonatan Julian, and the Minister of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change, Mr. Benoit Charette, announced on June 19th the governmental orientations in this direction.

These include, among other things, developing a flood-related land-use action plan by December 2019. To achieve this plan, the ministerial flood action group will be now under the co-chairmanship of Minister Laforest and Minister Julien. The group will be completed by the Minister Charette and Minister for Transport and Minister responsible for Greater Montreal and the Montreal area, M me  Chantal Rouleau.

Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, April 2019: Volunteers walk through water to carry sand bags while trying to protect a home during the spring 2019 floods of the Ottawa River.

One of the measures in this plan is to review the norms governing the management of flood zones in force for the entire territory in order to protect Quebec families during floods.

Until the new standards are implemented, the government wants to establish a special intervention zone (ZIS). This would result in a moratorium on the construction and reconstruction of buildings located in all 0-20-year-old mapped flood zones and the flooded area in 2017 and 2019. Special provisions would apply to the City. of Sainte-Marthe- sur-le-Lac, a large part of which was affected during the break-up of the dike.

The special intervention zone (ZIS) to promote better management of flood-prone areas has the following objectives:

  • to ensure the safety of persons and property;
  • to promote rigorous management of flood zones;
  • to impose a moratorium on the construction and reconstruction of buildings located on the territories covered by the ZIS, until the development of a new normative framework by the government and its implementation by the municipalities;
  • ensure the consistent application of the Protection Policy for Shorelines, Coastlines and Floodplains throughout the territory that has been affected by the flooding.

However, as soon as the draft ZIS decree is adopted, the Planning and Development Act  provides for a prohibition to build, rebuild and repair a building in the affected areas. However, it is possible to allow exceptions. In this sense, a decree was adopted to authorize certain repairs to the buildings affected by the floods of 2019.

“We had to take action to mitigate the consequences of floods that may occur in the future. I have been to the field many times and I know that the daily lives of the affected people and communities have been completely upset. It was therefore important to act now to protect citizens and provide them with a better quality of life in the long term,” said Andrée Laforest, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Mr. Jonatan Julien, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources added, “Our government is taking the necessary steps to prioritize improvements to enhance the safety and resilience of the population during floods. To do this, we will rely on a better understanding of the risks and vulnerabilities of flood zones. I am confident that the knowledge, know-how and expertise in mapping that has been recognized for many years will help achieve this goal.”  

“Faced with the climate emergency that requires us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, it is equally essential to adapt to the consequences of actual or apprehended climate change. Adapting to the climatic phenomena that cause floods, one of the main natural hazards in Quebec right now is to make every effort to provide adequate protection to shorelines, shorelines and floodplains. of our territory. This is what the government is doing today by adopting these exceptional measures and reviewing the normative framework so that we prevent damage rather than suffering it,” commented Benoit Charette, Minister of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change.

SPECIAL INTERVENTION AREA

Government guidelines

  • A special intervention zone (ZIS) is declared by decree, under the Act on Land Use Planning and Development (LAU). It aims to solve a development problem, the urgency or severity of which justify intervention.
  • Upon adoption of the draft ZIS decree, the LAU provides for a prohibition to build, rebuild and repair a building in the affected areas. However, it is possible to allow exceptions. In this sense, a decree was adopted to authorize certain repairs to the buildings affected by the floods of 2019.
  • In total, 813 municipalities are covered by the ZIS. Of these, 312 were affected by the floods in 2017 or 2019. The others were targeted from the flood zones that have been identified by the government or the municipal sector and are included in the planning tools of the municipalities. .

Authorization to renovate or rebuild

  • Buildings with any of the following characteristics should be subject to a damage assessment: the water has reached the ground floor where the foundations must be replaced or stabilization work must be done.
  • The repair of a building that is not a total loss is possible, that is to say when the damage to it is evaluated at less than 50% of its value. Thus, municipalities could authorize work to this end.
  • The flood victims of 2019 may be eligible for the Compensation and Financial Assistance Program for Real or Imminent Losses from the Department of Public Safety (MSP).

Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac

  • The floods that occurred in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac are of a particular nature, since they were caused by the breakage of the dike.
  • In this sense, the government must put in place solutions adapted to this situation. Repair and consolidation work on the dike is one of them.
  • In Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac , citizens would therefore have the right to rebuild a building, even if it has lost more than half of its value to nine. This would allow those who would not have been able to rebuild, under the ZIS, to choose whether they want to stay in their residence or move.
  • On the other hand, no construction would be permitted on the lands that were vacant on June 10, 2019.
  • The victims of Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac could also be eligible for the General Compensation and Financial Assistance Program for real or imminent losses.

Public Consultations

  • On July 4, the government will hold public consultation meetings in the 16 regions covered by the ZIS. Contact information is provided on the website of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MAMH). The public will be able to express itself on the governmental approach.
  • Anyone wishing to do so may also file an opinion or a brief with [email protected] , prior to the consultation.
  • The ZIS will come into force at the time of publication of the Order in the Gazette officielle du Québec . Changes could be made as a result of consultations prior to the adoption of the ZIS

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