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'It actually makes me very emotional': Sussex residents rejoice over flood mitigation plans

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When Howard MacMillan and Corylee Rutherford first moved into their Sussex home a few years ago they were unaware they bought a property in one of the many flood zones in Sussex, N.B.

Nearly four months after a massive flood covered much of town in late February the couple is still cleaning up their basement which was turned upside down during the weather event. The couple lost thousands of dollars worth of items and are still finding new spots affected by the February flood.

But Monday’s announcement from the three levels of government of a flood mitigation plan being implemented in the New Brunswick town was a day they weren’t sure would ever come.

“We were told it would never probably happen in our lifetime is what the rumor was so yeah we're so relieved,” admits Rutherford. “I had tears in my eyes. It actually makes me feel very emotional.”

“It was very monumental,” MacMillan adds. “I’m so glad to hear the federal government, provincial government, and the town of Sussex all joined together to remediate the flooding issues.”

The federal government is chipping in just over $15 million for the project, the province plans to spend around $13 million, while the municipality will put up a little more then $10 million for the project totally over $38 million. Environment impact assessments are already underway by the town ahead of construction, which could take anywhere from 11 to 36 months.

Once the assessment is complete, work will begin to build a pair of flood diversion channels and overpasses over Route 1. A berm is also set to be constructed in the Meadow Crescent area which will help protect around 80 homes in that part of town.

“Our hope is that if everything went the best case scenario by Christmas of 2028 we'll have this problem behind us,” says Sussex C.A.O. Scott Hatcher.

A concept map of the flood risk mitigation plan for the town of Sussex. (Courtesy: Town of Sussex)Attempts for a flood mitigation plan are nothing new for the township. Hatcher says a major flood in 2019 accelerated the needs for flood mitigation efforts in town, but the research on what the municipality would required stems further then that.

“We've been at it with reconciling, prerequisite work like studies, assessing the impacts that type of stuff, we've been out of for a full 10 years,” admits Hatcher.

He adds the pandemic did slow down efforts to get the flood mitigation strategy in place, with government funding required for the project to proceed.

Ron Baird is the owner of the Golden Arrow Sports Bar and Pizza Delight on the towns main drag. He says since the first major flood in 2014 (and countless other ones in the decade to follow) he estimates around $600,000 in damages have occurred between his home and two eateries.

He even had a sign displayed on his sports bar following the February flood reading “To our MLA and Mayor, when is the water problem getting fixed?”

“I'm hoping it had something to do with it,” Baird jokes on a plan finally coming to fruition to solve the towns flooding issues. “I really wanted to make the councillor and everybody know that we're very concerned about it. I know they were working behind the scenes, and we really appreciate what everybody's doing in Sussex.”

Of all the things he is looking forward to most once the project is completed in the next three-to-five years, it’s being able to get a good sleep on a rainy night.

“Whenever it rains we never get to sleep here in Sussex,” Baird says. “That's all we worry about is the flooding. Even if we get 20 or 30 millimetres we're still worried about it.”

Baird says the entire community has been thrilled since news came out that before long flooding fears will be a worry of the past in the rural community.

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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