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Flood mitigation program could bankrupt Grand Forks: councillor

A Grand Forks councillor has “deep concern” a flood mitigation project could push the city into bankruptcy if the federal government doesn’t step up and honour its commitment.

In an interview with Vista Radio, Chris Moslin says the feds have only paid about $1.4 million in the last three years, despite being sent invoices for nearly $5 million in work.

The City of Grand Forks, the B.C. government and the federal government signed a deal in 2019 under the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund (DMAF) for the roughly $52 million project. The province was responsible for about $32 million, Ottawa for $20 million and the city for roughly $4.5 million.

Moslin accuses the feds of stonewalling and throwing up “one hurdle in front of another” when it comes to submissions for payment. The latest invoice was for $750,000 for erosion control in South Ruckle. “Again, we have heard nothing from the federal government,” Moslin said.

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He says the DMAF project has been a “bitter pill to swallow” and should serve as a warning for other small communities facing cleanup from natural disasters – namely Princeton and Merritt.

“So I’m basically saying is, don’t count on the feds, don’t play their game, stand your ground, do what you can, your partner is the province. Don’t go the way of the feds. They’ll just make more and more demands and they will not honour their commitments.”

The city took out a $20 million emergency line of credit in March but Moslin says that hasn’t been used yet and he didn’t support the idea because it was “opening the door to a very slippery slope.”

On the flip side, Moslin says the provincial government has been “outstanding throughout the process” and even gave $20 million in advance. The city has been able to bank that cash and has been “doing well” earning some interest on that money.

The situation has also put other pressure on the city as it can’t move ahead with other big ticket infrastructure such as the $10 million community center due to worry it will have to cover Ottawa’s bill, Moslin explained.

Moslin says it will be up to the next council to decide what to do but there are three scenarios: the federal government comes up with its share plus additional money, the city goes broke or the city cuts the size of the project.

He says the two critical projects to protect the downtown and industry are done but the other two mitigation projects will be up for council to decide.

“This next term is not going to be a bed of roses and people should know that’s the situation with DMAF.”

“It’s sort of like we’re on a two-legged stool right now. It’s just not working because the feds are just dragging their feet,” Moslin said.

Asked whether local New Democrat MP Richard Cannings has been helpful, Moslin says he has handled correspondence between the city and Ottawa but he “expects more from Mr. Cannings.”

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