Flooded High River state of emergency to be lifted despite pushback: Redford

HIGH RIVER, Alta. – Alberta Premier Alison Redford says a local state of emergency in flood-stricken High River in southern Alberta is to be lifted as scheduled Friday.

The emergency declaration was made almost immediately when the town was swamped in a matter of hours three weeks ago and the entire community of 13,000 had to be evacuated.

Redford also says the province is handing control of High River back to its town council.

She says provincial support will remain.

“We are not going anywhere,” she said at a news conference in High River on Thursday. “This is only another phase. We’re in it for the long haul.”

Opposition Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith, who is from High River, had wanted the legislature reconvened so the province could extend the state of emergency.

Redford said there’s no real need for that.

“There’s no magic that having a provincial state of emergency in place … will speed up things tomorrow,” she said.

Associate minister Rick Fraser and provincial officials are to remain on the ground in High River as rebuilding continues, she added.

Mayor Emile Blokland said Redford and her government “have been there” for the town and it’s time to move ahead.

“Tremendous progress has been made in High River,” he said. “We know the amount of work that lies ahead.”

There was extensive damage when the raging Highwood River swiftly surged through the community June 20 after torrential rains. Streets were inundated, residents were stranded in vehicles and homes and whole neighbourhoods turned into lakes. Some areas still aren’t dry.

Smith said she’s disappointed the state of emergency isn’t being extended. She pointed out things have not returned to normal in High River.

“I hope we don’t see a disruption in the rebuilding process.”