Federal Government’s Failure to Fix Dikes Sees Fort Albany Evacuated Due to Flooding Threat
FORT ALBANY FIRST NATION: The Chief and Council of Fort Albany First Nation have been forced to declare a community-wide evacuation as rising water from the winter break-up on the Albany River threatens to breach the community’s aging dike system.
“The dikes that protect our community have failed twice over the years, and there is a very real threat that this could happen again. If flooding occurs, all of our essential services and critical infrastructure including power, telecommunications, and safe drinking water will be disrupted. We will also lose our lifelines to the hospital and airport as roads wash out,” explained Fort Albany Chief Elizabeth Kataquapit. “The federal government is well aware of the threat to our community but has failed to replace and rebuild this protective system. We have been promised that we are at the top of the list for vital repairs, but we have not received any communication about funding or workplans.”
The community declared a State of Emergency on April 28 triggering a full evacuation. Vulnerable community members including Elders, children, and expecting mothers were evacuated last month as a precautionary measure.
Evacuees have been airlifted to Kapuskasing and Niagara Falls, with some community members remaining in the community to protect vital infrastructure.
“Chief and Council have determined that the situation in Fort Albany is too dangerous for our citizens to remain in the community. They are doing everything they can to ensure the safety of their citizens and we look to the governments of Ontario and Canada to assist in every way possible,” said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum. “We are alarmed to learn that some evacuees fled their initial host community over safety concerns, and that necessary supports are not fully in place. Evacuations are traumatic experiences, and we ask these host communities to welcome them with friendship and compassion.”
A network of dikes protecting the community are at the risk of failing due to a lack of replacement and commitment by the federal government to address serious deficiencies. Flooding resulted from a breach last spring, and there is a constant threat to the community. The government’s failure to repair these berms, which also serve as roadways, has resulted in fatalities over the years.
Fort Albany is a remote Cree community located on the western shores of James Bay. The community encompasses three islands and is accessible only by air and seasonal winter roads.
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