Heavy rain falls in 2010 and unusually high snowpack through winter 2010-11 led the former Saskatchewan Watershed Authority (Authority) to project that widespread flooding would occur across southern Saskatchewan in spring 2011 (although the Authority was reorganized into the newly formed Water Security Agency in October 2012, throughout the report it is referred to as the Authority as that was the agency when the work was done). In February 22, 2011, the Government of Saskatchewan announced the Emergency Flood Damage Reduction Program (EFDRP) which the Authority, along with the former Corrections, Public Safety and Policing (CPSP) and now known as Government Relations, immediately began to implement.
This report provides a review of the successes and shortcomings, as well as a cost-benefit analysis of EFDRP. It aims to offer insight into the 2011 flood event by reflecting on the program and problems encountered by individuals and communities coping with flooding in Saskatchewan. It also outlines key lessons related to the successful development of programs that effectively and efficiently reduce human hardship and costs associated with flooding in the future.
It was initially projected that the program would assist approximately 600 clients. However, demand for the program was much higher than originally expected. When the program wrapped up in early 2012, 1,237 individuals, communities, rural municipalities and First Nations had requested assistance. These numbers do not include the countless individuals and municipalities who sought technical assistance for flood mitigation, without participating in the program.
Participants were generally very satisfied with the process and outcomes of the program. Each proponent who participated in the program was interviewed at the end of their experience to rate their experience. Overall, proponent satisfaction with the program was high and the vast majority of participants (91 per cent) were able to effectively avert flood damages.
A cost-benefit analysis of the potential financial losses that were prevented because of program activities suggests that the program was highly cost effective. For every dollar spent in flood prevention efforts on individual yard sites, $23 was saved in property replacement costs. For every dollar spent in flood prevention efforts in communities and RMs, $30 was saved in terms of the expected costs for rebuilding, cleaning and repairs.
Lessons learned from the 2011 program include the importance of rapid program roll-out to effective flood emergency response, clear communication with clients, provision of mitigation guidelines, effective database development, links with other related programs and regulatory processes as well as the ability to adapt to the unexpected. The Authority did have a public relations plan in place, which among other things included the creation of the saskflood.ca website, providing an environment for sharing EFDRP and flood event information.
Through the time and dedication of Authority employees in our regional offices, the staff recruited to work on the program, consulting engineers, and engineering technologists, the program was able to provide timely and effective flood prevention support, both financial and technical. Not only did this program have an impact on the flood of 2011, the structures built and advice given will have a positive effect into the future.