File | Prisoners of flood zones (3 articles)

(La Visitation-de-l’Île-Dupas) Losing her independence, Suzanne Leblanc is forced to use a dry toilet and washes herself with a washcloth, because she cannot adapt her house due to flood zone rules. Despite the support of its municipality, the Ministry of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks (MELCCFP) does not allow any exceptions.


“I’m really happy here. I’m next to the water every morning. I have lunch looking at the water. Sometimes there are fish that jump. There are birds,” said Mme Leblanc, glancing towards his window, which opens onto an arm of the St. Lawrence River.

In her home at the end of Dupas Island, located in the Lac-Saint-Pierre archipelago, she has everything she wants: affordable housing, the right to have pets, peace and quiet. Except it doesn’t have a toilet on the ground floor. This is a major problem, because for several years she has no longer been able to climb the stairs due to her state of health.

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She believed that her problem would be solved when she obtained a grant allowing her to build a bathroom in an annex erected on the ground floor of her home, on the recommendation of the Société de l’habitation du Québec.

PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

The southwest tip of the municipality of La Visitation-de-l’Île-Dupas

But her joy was short-lived: she came up against the strict rules decreed by the Ministry of the Environment in 2022 for owners of houses located in flood zones.

“At the beginning, my daughter wanted to come and settle here, we would have made an extension, she would have been able to take care of me. But they didn’t want to. They don’t even want me to add a bathroom. Look at what toilet I have,” says Mme Leblanc pointing to a dry toilet, installed between his kitchen and his dining room.

Blocking

The mayor of La Visitation-de-l’Île-Dupas, Alain Goyette, took up the cause of his fellow citizen. His fate, and that of other residents “prisoners” of flood zones, moves him, especially since the Ministry of the Environment relies on “outdated” flood ratings, according to a report from the engineering firm WSP ordered by the MRC d’Autray in 2017.

PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

Alain Goyette, mayor of La Visitation-de-l’Île-Dupas

Despite all the bad things he thinks about the regulations in force, his administration does not have the right to issue a building permit. “The bathroom floor would have been below the 100-year flood rating, which is prohibited. But if we take it a step further, it no longer works for Mme The White. And in any case, it is forbidden to plant stakes,” he says.

In the fight she is waging, she nevertheless has the support of the management of the autonomy support program for the elderly at the CISSS de Lanaudière, who wrote a letter of support.

“We hope to make you aware of the many difficulties experienced by Mr.me Leblanc and raise awareness among decision-makers of the possibilities that exist for it. Mme Leblanc could now have an environment adapted to his needs if the regulations, which do not take into account his basic needs and the particularity of his situation, could be modified,” we can read in the letter written by the CISSS on 20 October 2023.

Mayor Alain Goyette took note of this. And he picked up the phone to plead M’s causeme Leblanc with the Ministry of the Environment.

The guy from the Ministry of the Environment told me: “She will have to leave, there is no humanitarian exception.” It’s hard… And after pushing him to the limit, he said to me: “Call a journalist”.

Alain Goyette, mayor of La Visitation-de-l’Île-Dupas

The Ministry of the Environment confirms that no exceptions are possible. “The transitional regime does not provide a mechanism allowing exceptions to be made for particular cases. It imposes uniform rules for the entire territory of Quebec,” indicates Josée Guimond, press relations officer.

For meme Leblanc, leaving his residence is not part of the plans. “The other places are too expensive, I’m not able to leave,” she says. “The population is aging here. I’m not the only one who will be the same. We don’t want to go to old people’s homes all the time,” she adds.

PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

The mayors of the Lake Saint-Pierre basin question the validity of the maps used by the Ministry of the Environment.

Anger roars

Among the mayors of the Lake Saint-Pierre basin, anger is brewing. The 2022 rules do not pass, and some elected officials fear that the new regime which is to be tabled by Minister Benoit Charette (see other text) will be worse. Mr. Goyette invited his colleagues to a meeting at the beginning of March.

Initially, the mayors questioned the validity of the maps used by the Ministry of the Environment. A report commissioned by the MRC and written by hydrologist Pierre Dupuis concludes that “the elevations used by the Quebec government to produce flood zone maps in 2013 are too high and inaccurate” and that they “must therefore be considered as obsolete”.

Mr. Dupuis, now at the Montreal Metropolitan Community, estimates that the Quebec government overestimates flood levels by about half a meter, which has a significant impact on flood zone maps in such a flat territory. Despite everything, denounces Mr. Goyette, the government has not moved. The Ministry responds that an “update of this mapping must be carried out taking into account the minimum methodological requirements of the MELCCFP”.

The mayor of Saint-Barthélemy, Robert Sylvestre, and the mayor of Lanoraie, the former PQ MP André Villeneuve, support Mayor Goyette. The rules put in place by the State risk making owners of houses located in flood zones lose everything, they denounce.

PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

Robert Sylvestre, mayor of Saint-Barthélemy, has in hand the conclusions of the Dupuis report which underlines that the maps of the Ministry of the Environment are obsolete.

The house is the heritage. When they try to sell their house, what price will it be for if the prospective buyer cannot have a mortgage? Values ​​will probably collapse. And they can’t modify their house, not even enlarge windows.

Robert Sylvestre, mayor of Saint-Barthélemy

“A house is the fruit of a lifetime of work, and from one day to the next, all that is put in danger. (…) It’s crazy steep,” adds Mr. Villeneuve.

PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

André Villeneuve, mayor of Lanoraie and former PQ MP

But what do local MPs say? “It was the detachment of the elected officials that surprised me. What they are telling us is quite simply that they don’t want any more people in flood zones. They don’t want to pay anymore. “We don’t want to pay for that anymore,” that’s what comes up all the time,” underlines Alain Goyette.

Mayors are now demanding that the Quebec government show the new flood zone maps before adopting a regulation, rather than the other way around, so that concerned citizens can react. They want softened rules for owners of “immune” homes, and above all, they ask for an “appeal” mechanism when a citizen, like Suzanne Leblanc, is wronged.

“When the inconvenience to someone’s life is more serious than the harm caused, there are exceptions,” says Mr. Goyette.


reference: www.lapresse.ca

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