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Little Buffalo River residents say better upkeep needed following 2021 flood

As spring breakup season approaches, some residents of Little Buffalo River, a collection of cabins outside the main area of Fort Resolution, remain frustrated with what they feel was a lack of attention to home repair following a flood last year.
Gus Pasowisty, who lives in a five-metre-by-five-metre cabin at Little Buffalo River, says he thinks it’s unfair that some repairs were made to his flooded home, where he lives year-round, when two other locations in the area of small cabins were replaced by new homes. Simon Whitehouse/’NNSL photo

As spring breakup season approaches, some residents of Little Buffalo River, a collection of cabins outside the main area of Fort Resolution, remain frustrated with what they feel was a lack of attention to home repair following a flood last year.

Little Buffalo River experienced rapidly rising waters on May 13, 2021, due to ice buildup upstream — around the same time that historic floods hit Jean Marie River, Fort Simpson and Fort Good Hope along the Mackenzie River.

Rising waters, which residents said had not been seen in decades, inundated the homes located about 110 metres from the body of water.

The GNWT Department of Municipal and Community Affairs said that at least six dwellings along the road were damaged during the 2021 flood. The department oversaw repairs to four of those homes but two had to be replaced entirely.

Two residents on the route complain that they would have taken the replacements themselves, especially since they are residing in aging shelters year-round.

Joe Fabien, who retired as a long-time Northern mine worker in July 2019, has lived alone in a wood-stove heated home since Pine Point closed in 1988.

His place is out of range of internet or cellphone service and he keeps up basic maintenance by himself.

Fabien said he was grateful to get help from the department with flood-related damage to his home’s flooring and skirting, but added that he would have welcomed other repairs to better accommodate his living situation as he has a sagging roof and cracks in his walls.

“It kind of pisses me off because they are bringing in a big house for one person (each) when those units could have went to Jean Marie or Fort Simpson, where a larger family could use it,” he said. “I’m not jealous or anything but, you know, they just patched me up and had an engineer take a look at my flooring. They said they could jack up the house (to install pilings) but they never jacked up the house. They just fixed my floor and that was it.”

Some of Fabien’s complaints bleed into discontent that as a recently turned 65-year-old Elder he should be receiving assistance in his home with regular upkeep.

But the department says that there are programs for that type of help – they just doesn’t fall under MACA’s purview.

“MACA does not have a mandate in this area,” spokesperson Jay Boast said, referring News North to Housing NWT. “NWT Housing has a Seniors Aging in Place policy.”

Gus Pasowisty, another year-round occupant of a five-metre-by-five-metre cabin for 25 years, had even sharper complaints. His home, consisting of a bunk-bed, a wood stove and other minor pieces of furniture, was hit hard with water from the flood.

He said his deck was ruined and his entire floor and part of his wall had to be cleared and replaced due to wetness and mould.

He and his daughter spent three days last spring travelling to the dump to remove damaged material like flooring, insulation and wall cover.

Pasowisty said MACA contractors’ assistance amounted to a “quick job” at a cost of $37,000.

“I probably spend more time out here (on Little Buffalo River) than anybody,” he said. “Why didn’t (MACA) come up to me and say we’re going to build you another cabin? Nope. They said, well, we’ll give you $37,000 to fix your cabin and this is what I got.”

Most of the items inside the cabin were damaged or lost, he added, and his deck was ruined.

“How two people can get that (two brand new homes) and they leave me with this, I don’t get,” he said. “I gotta fix everything. I gotta fix my deck. I gotta raise my house myself.”

Pasowisty said he isn’t worried about another flood this year because it’s out of his control, but said it seems unfair one mobile home is being installed directly across from his residence while another one is being constructed a few lots down his lane.

The department, however, says that while there were two replacements in the area, there was no unfair treatment and they were awarded based on normal assessments conducted following flooding protocol.

“If the damage assessment and engineering review indicated that a house could not be repaired, the resident was offered a replacement house,” Boast stated. “If the repair was feasible, the department offered those residents support in having the repairs completed.”

Boast added that in the case where the department replaced or repaired homes “every homeowner was required to submit documentation verifying that the impacted residence was their primary residence.”

Gus Pasowisty shows the height of his door where he says water inundated his home during flood season in 2021 at Little Buffalo River, near Fort Resolution. Pasowisty said repairs from the GNWT Department of Municipal and Community Affairs were not complete based on what he needed. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo
Gus Pasowisty stands outside his five-metre-by-five-metre cabin in Little Buffalo River on April 28. He said his home was heavily flooded last year from rising waters in the nearby river. He would have liked to have received a replacement home similar to two other units installed by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs in the area of cabins near Fort Resolution. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo
Little Buffalo River, as it appeared on April 28, flooded a nearby area of cabins and caused extensive damage to six homes last spring. Four of those properties received repair work by the GNWT Department of Municipal and Community Affairs. Two were replaced with new housing entirely. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo
Little Buffalo River, a small cluster of cabins within the Hamlet of Fort Resolution, saw several homes flooded out last year during the historic rising of waters. Some residents said they would have liked to have seen their cabins replaced instead of repaired. Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo