Canada opens new disaster funding as wildfires, floods take toll

The CL-215T is a commonly deployed aircraft for wildfire suppression. It has a water capacity of 1,200 imperial gallons and has the ability to reload numerous times within four-hour missions. Photo credit: Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency

The federal government has opened $1.37 billion in new infrastructure resilience funding to strengthen stormwater systems, restore wetlands and protect against dangers posed to municipal governments by climate change such as flooding.

The new round of opportunities under the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund will be split fairly equally over 12 years between large-scale projects with price tags over $20 million and smaller-scale projects. The total eligible cost for the project must be at least $1 million.

Additionally, $138 million of the total funding envelope is being dedicated to Indigenous recipients, according to Infrastructure Canada.

“With extreme weather events becoming more frequent, cities and towns need to take increasing action to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change,” announced Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.

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To date, over $1.9 billion has been announced through the fund for 69 large-scale infrastructure projects that will help protect communities across the country from the threats of climate change. The majority of applicants have been municipal governments, although there have also been some provincial and Indigenous applications.

Wildfire prevention project applications are likely in the works as smoke from fires in British Columbia, as well as northern Saskatchewan, Manitoba and northwest Ontario, has resulted in special air quality advisories across the country where temperatures continue to soar.

In Saskatchewan alone there have been 459 wildfires this year, compared to the five-year average of 229. Close to 600 firefighters, 40 helicopters and 19 planes are involved in fighting the fires.

The fund has previously supported Ontario projects like remediating and enhancing the resilience of Toronto’s ravines, waterfront shoreline structures and tree canopy against erosion caused by flooding. In B.C., a number of coastal flood protection projects for cities such as Surrey and Delta have been underway.

In Nova Scotia the fund has been used to upgrade dyke systems and causeways.

In Alberta the fund has been used to assist with the Springbank Off-Stream Reservoir project, which recently received federal approval following an environmental assessment of the flood diversion channel.

In Quebec the fund has previously been used to pay for the construction of retaining structures to control overflows and overloading of combined sewer systems during heavy rains. For example, a $21.3-million retention system was built in Montreal’s Griffintown neighbourhood to maximize overflow control and better protect residents from water damage.

The fund started in 2018 as competitive and merit-based, meaning that all projects are assessed against eligibility and merit criteria. Notably, projects are assessed based on their natural hazard risk, return on investment, project co-benefits, and other elements.

Large-scale project applications will have a deadline of October 15, 2021, while small-scale project applications are due by November 15.

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