Pierrefonds-Roxboro battled the water in 2019 and won. But the mayor wants permanent measures put in place to help prevent flooding moving forward.
John Kenney / Montreal Gazette
The majority of West Island mayors sighed in relief last week after learning homes in their territories that had been erroneously included in the red zone of a government flood-zone map had been removed.The controversial map identified a zone d’intervention spéciale (ZIS) — areas vulnerable to flooding – based in part on data collected during historic flooding in 2017 and 2019. But 200 West Island homes included in the ZIS had never experienced flooding. Being included in the ZIS meant halting all renovations or construction. Homeowners were also concerned it would negatively affect insurance rates and property values.Municipalities and individuals contacted the government to argue their case.Quebec Liberal MNA Greg Kelley (Jacques-Cartier) sent a letter to Quebec Minister for Municipal Affairs Andrée Laforest requesting a meeting with mayors in his riding. The invitation was expanded to include all West Island mayors and the meeting took place on Aug. 2. The exemptions were announced Aug. 5.Last week’s map is the third version and probably won’t be the last. Municipalities and individuals have until Aug. 19 to submit requests for further adjustments.In wake of the announcement, Pierrefonds-Roxboro Mayor Jim Beis was not as jubilant as his West Island colleagues. He told the West Island Gazette that further adjustments need to be made to the map because there are establishments in the central core of Pierrefonds-Roxboro that experienced flooding in 2017, but that the flooding was not caused by the river overflowing but by the storm sewers backing up.He said the city had a better understanding of the water works leading into spring 2019 and was able to strategically place pumps to eliminate the back flow experienced in 2017, but that temporary measures are not a permanent solution.“We need to sit down with (government) experts and our experts and talk permanent and semi-permanent solutions,” Beis said. “We were able to prevent 95 per cent of flooding, but at massive expense and they were all temporary measures.”Beis said correcting the water works under Pierrefonds Blvd. would be a relatively simple procedure. Reparing natural dikes built in Roxboro in the seventies and eighties is another priority which would go a long way to keep the water at bay.“Natural dikes, being what they are, need to be verified by experts,” the mayor said. “None of those discussions have taken place. We need to sit down with Montreal and with the Quebec government.”The mayor said he left the Aug. 2 meeting with Laforest feeling optimistic.“(The minister) promised to visit Pierrefonds-Roxboro and discuss our particular issues,” he said. “It’s the first sign of life – that we might get the government support we need. It’s impossible for a bedroom community like ours – where the primary tax source is residential – to pay for the work.”Volunteers, city workers and elected officials in Pierrefonds-Roxboro worked tirelessly to install temporary dikes, pumps, mountains of sandbags and even snow blowers to battle the water in 2019.Beis said the efforts saved 700 homes from being flooded. Following the 2017 flooding, 10 homes in Pierrefonds-Roxboro were demolished because the water damage was too extensive.“But those lots were dry in 2019,” Beis said. “We need to look at the areas individually and come up with permanent plans to suit each situation.”To check the latest version of the ZIS map, go to www.cehq.gouv.qc.ca/zones-inond/ZISemail@example.comRelated