Flooding in First Nation communities

Seasonal flooding can put First Nation communities at risk. Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) regional officials work closely with First Nations at risk of flooding and partners to help ensure emergency preparedness and response plans are in place and fund eligible flood mitigation preparedness and response measures.

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Flood risk by region

Flood risk monitoring and emergency response is managed by the provinces and territories. For more information on flood monitoring in your region, consult the regional organizations listed below.

Newfoundland

Prince Edward Island

Nova Scotia

New Brunswick

Quebec

Ontario

Manitoba

Saskatchewan

Alberta

British Columbia

Northwest Territories

Yukon

Nunavut

Preparing for a flood

To learn more about preparing for a flood, visit Flood Ready.

Visit Canadian Red Cross’s website for information on how to prepare for emergencies:

Flood preparation measures in First Nation communities

ISC provides funding support for flood preparation and mitigation measures in First Nation communities. Specific examples in each region are set out below.

Atlantic

A surface and storm water mitigation program is in progress for Indian Island First Nation in New Brunswick. The program covers surface and storm water management planning, housing infrastructure review and upgrades to community drainage network.

Overland flooding due to melting snow in spring is common in Atlantic First Nations, especially in New Brunswick. In 2017-2018, ISC has supported six New Brunswick First Nations for emergency removal of excessive snowpack from areas which have been historically vulnerable to overland flooding due to snow melt:

  • Eel Ground
  • Eel River Bar
  • Esgenoôpetitj
  • Metepenagaig
  • Pabineau
  • Tobique

The Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick has been historically vulnerable to overland flooding due to severe rainstorms and rapid snow melting. In 2017/2018, ISC funded the First Nation to conduct a flood mitigation study. The study will be complete in fiscal 18/19 and provide the basis for the development of a plan.

ISC has also supported the Sheshatshiu and Mushuau Innu First Nations in Newfoundland for emergency snow removal to prevent flooding from snow melt.

An overland flooding mitigation program for the Eskasoni First Nation in Nova Scotia has been underway since 2016-2017.

In April 2015, Canada and the province of Prince Edward Island signed a four-year agreement to to ensure the province's two First Nation communities receive the same level of emergency management services as every other Islander.

Quebec

ISC supports Québec First Nation Preparedness activities, on an annual and recurring basis, including emergency management plan updates, exercises and training.

Non-structural mitigation measures were implemented with the financial support of ISC, such as:

  • addition of Waterguard system in houses that were at risk of flood due to high water tables (Nutashkuan First Nation)
  • sandbags in store in case of floods (Kanesatake, Pekuakamiulnutsh Takuhikan)
  • alert system and evacuation plans (Chisasibi, Wemotaci)

In addition to direct investments, ISC supports First Nations by way of the following measures and projects:

  • regional agreement with the Canadian Red Cross for assistance during evacuations
  • National Symposium on Resilience in First Nations (Quebec City, May 2017)
  • training and exercises in risk management, emergency management planning, incident command system and emergency operation centres
  • flood watch and flood response in all First Nations with the collaboration of the Provincial government

Ontario

ISC supports emergency preparedness activities for all First Nations in Ontario. ISC contracts the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation to work with First Nations to:

  • review and update their emergency management plans
  • train and test the preparedness of First Nations' staff

ISC also supports flood watch for the Mushkegowuk Council and the First Nation communities of:

  • Fort Albany
  • Attawapiskat
  • Kashechewan
  • Weenusk
  • Moose Cree
  • Fort Severn

Other ISC-supported activities include:

  • The Mushkegowuk Council's feasibility study for a culturally appropriate evacuation camp to serve their communities, some of which are forced to evacuate yearly due to flooding hazards.
  • Funding for the Mushkegowuk Council to send James Bay emergency management coordinators to the Flood and Fire Symposium hosted by the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management.

Since 1992, Canada has had a Memorandum of Understanding with Ontario to ensure First Nations receive emergency response support, including for flooding.

Manitoba

ISC has made significant investments in permanent measures to protect Manitoba First Nations from flooding. Permanent dikes are in place at 12 Manitoba First Nations:

  • Sioux Valley
  • Opaskwayak
  • Canupawakpa
  • Sandy Bay
  • Ebb and Flow
  • Lake Manitoba
  • O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi
  • Little Saskatchewan
  • Poplar River
  • Berens River
  • Kinonjeoshtegon
  • Roseau River Anishinabe

Temporary dikes were also constructed at Lake St. Martin and Pinaymootang First Nations. These dikes have the potential to be left in place permanently pending the outcome of discussions with the First Nations.

With support from ISC, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs organized the Manitoba Flood Preparedness Forum February 28 to March 1, 2018, which brought together all First Nations in Manitoba routinely affected by flooding. Participants discussed strategies and exchanged knowledge related to flood outlook, services, tools and templates, etc., in order to increase awareness and capacity around flood preparation, response and recovery.

With funding from ISC, Fort Alexander First Nation is undertaking shoreline erosion protection works, and Peguis First Nation is doing a feasibility study on work needed to mitigate flood damage to housing.

Saskatchewan

ISC has made significant investments to reduce the potential for flooding that threatens residents, houses and infrastructure in Saskatchewan First Nation communities, both now and in future years.

In addition to direct investments in Saskatchewan First Nations, ISC has an arrangement with the province of Saskatchewan to provide emergency response and recovery support to First Nations.

Structural mitigation projects to address flooding are also underway in these First Nation communities with investments from ISC:

  • Cumberland House Cree Nation: project to improve local drainage to better deal with spring runoff
  • Lac La Ronge First Nation – Stanley Mission Reserve: multi-activity project including removing damaged culverts and installing replacements, repairing damaged roadways and re-grading existing ditches
  • Montreal Lake Cree Nation: drainage improvements to reduce seasonal flooding risk.

Alberta

Funded by ISC, the Alberta Bow River Basin Flood Hazard Assessment Project assesses flood hazards for the parts of the Bow River Basin flowing through the Siksika, Tsuut'ina and Stoney Tribe Nations to help the First Nations develop options for flood mitigation.

Structural mitigation projects to address flooding are also underway in these First Nation communities with investments from ISC:

  • Dene Tha' First Nation: feasibility and design for overland flooding mitigation for the Chateh community
  • Piikani Nation:
    • upgrades to the culverts and roadways along Beaver Creek to mitigate road washout that would potentially lead to a sizeable part of reserve being cut off from accessing that area
    •  berm reconstruction on Lizard Lake
  • Tsuut'ina Nation: culvert and drainage upgrades
  • Tallcree First Nation: flood protection design and construction completed to provide flood protection for the North community

ISC has a comprehensive emergency management service agreement with the Province of Alberta. The agreement ensures the First Nations are fully integrated into the provincial emergency management system. This includes a direct provincial presence, as required, during emergency events on-reserve that is integrated with the broader provincial response, as well as preparedness training and emergency planning assistance.

British Columbia

ISC has an emergency management service agreement with British Columbia to help ensure First Nations in the province receive equivalent assistance during an emergency as neighbouring non-Indigenous communities.

Structural mitigation projects to address  potential flooding issues are also underway in these First Nation communities with investments from ISC:

  • Gitanmaax: Bulkley River bank erosion protection of an existing community access road
  • Kwantlen First Nation: bank erosion protection for infrastructure and surrounding lands on McMillan Island IR #6
  • Lower Kootenay: dike reconstruction creating new set-back dikes protecting on and off reserve assets
  • Nisga'a Village of Laxgalt'sap: two project studies:
    1. Dredging Greenville Creek/dike and raising adjacent subdivision lands above the flood plain levels using the river dredging materials.
    2. Nass River tsunami wave and storm surge event flood risk study.
  • Nooaitch:
    • bank armouring to protect the bridge and other critical areas of the community from flood and erosion.
    • design and construction of long-term erosion mitigation works at bank failure locations along the main access road to Nooaitch IR #1.
  • Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council: a coastal vulnerability study project to develop models for 30 coastal communities around Vancouver Island to help predict estimated sea level rise, accompanying storm surge, and its effects on infrastructure for communities on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Six communities have been completed to date including: Nuchatlaht, Hesquiaht, Ahousaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Ehattesaht, and Kyuquot. First Nations planning additional investigations in 2018-2019 include: Toquaht, Yuu-cluth-aht, Hupacasath, Huu-ay-aht, Tse-shaht, and Uchucklesaht.
  • Skidegate: a North Coastal Vulnerability Study to develop models for 30 coastal communities to help predict estimated sea level rise, accompanying storm surge, and its effects on the infrastructure of First Nation communities in Northern British Columbia. Nine communities have been completed to date including: Skidegate, Old Massett, Gitga'at, Haisla, Gingolx, Laxgalts'ap, Lax Kwalaams, Metlakatla, and Gitxaala. Planned investigations for 2018-2019 include: Kitasoo, Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, Wuikinuxv, and Dzawada'enuxw.
  • Skwah First Nation, Shxwhay First Nation and the City of Chilliwack: a joint flood and erosion protection project of both reserve communities and the City of Chilliwack, currently in design, is planned to start construction in 2018-2019.
  • Soowahlie: reconstruction of a failed dike section completed in 2017-2018. Construction of river training works planned for 2018-2019.
  • Gwa'Sala-Nakwaxda'xw: Coastal Flood Protection Investigations of the community.
  • Tsawout First Nation: Coastal erosion protection works of existing infrastructure; design completed in 2017-2018 and proceeding to construction in 2018-2019.
  • Metlakata First Nation: Coastal Erosion Protection works of existing infrastructure; design completed in 2017-2018 and construction planned for 2018-2019.
  • Ts'kw'aylaxw First Nation: construction of a debris flow berm for the protection of existing infrastructure.
  • Peters Band: initiating assessment and design of flood protection upgrades for existing homes, as well as identifying upgrades to address climate change predictions identified for the overall river valley.
  • Gitanmaax: initiating designs for erosion protection works for an existing subdivision.
  • Kwikwasut'inuxw Haxw'mis: initiated investigations of coastal erosion works to protect existing homes.

Yukon

Lower Post First Nation in British Columbia, which falls under ISC's Yukon region, completed erosion protection works on the Liard River.

As well, ISC Yukon Region has provided emergency management training to the three northern British Columbia First Nations that the Region supports:

  • Daylu Dena Council
  • Dease River First Nation
  • Taku River First Nation

In September 2016, the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon announced a seven-year bilateral agreement to provide emergency management services to White River First Nation, Ross River Dena Council and Liard First Nation.

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