By Chad Ingram
Published July 19 2017
Controlling flooding in the village ofMinden will be a long drawn out process.
While that's not what residents wantedto hear that was the overarching message during a post-flood publicmeeting at the Minden Hills Community Centre on the evening of July18.
More than 100 people attended Tuesday'smeeting where they had the chance to ask officials including thosefrom the Trent Severn Waterway the MNRF the health unit and Minden Hills townshipabout the flood that left the municipality in a state of emergencyfrom May 6 to 26.
Jewel Cunningham director of OntarioWaterways for Parks Canada the agency which oversees the TrentSevern Waterway traced the impetus of this year's flood to a week ofrainfall in late April and early May that saw nearly 129 millimetresof precipitation fall on the area. Average rainfall for the entiremonth of May is less than 100 millimetres.
At the time the reservoir lakes northof Minden that are part of the feeder system for the Trent SevernCanal were already at or near capacity leaving no storage room forthe latest downpour.
“What we had to deal with this yearwas a significant amount of rainfall” Cunningham said showinggraphs compiled from data Parks Canada collects from gaugesthroughout the waterway.
That rainfall followed two earlierprecipitation events in April. The data also showed that most monthsof 2017 have far exceeded averages for precipitation levels and thatMay witnessed more than twice its average amount of rainfall.
At its peak this year's flood saw thelevel of the Gull River through Minden five centimetres lower thanthe 2013 flood. While the 2013 flood was caused by rainfallcoinciding with the spring freshet this year's flood occurred afterthe snow had melted.
“Unfortunately the TSW is really notdesigned to be an effective flood mitigation system” Cunninghamsaid emphasizing that when Mother Nature brings the amount ofprecipitation she did this spring there is simply no room left inthe system to store water.
The feeder system for the Trent SevernCanal was constructed more than a century ago before the shores ofthe lakes and rivers of Haliburton County were dotted with homes.
Cunningham pointed out there was notjust flooding throughout the Trent Severn Waterway this spring butin many parts of Ontario including Ottawa and on the Great Lakes.
While staff at Parks Canada useprecipitation averages and historical data as part of theirdecision-making process when it comes to water management operationsCunningham admitted that climate change is altering the relevancy ofthat data and that the agency has more to learn when it comes to itsimplications.
“There's always areas in which we canconsider future improvement” she said. “Certainly climatechange is one of those.”
A number of residents told Cunninghamthey thought too much water was stored in the reservoir lakes inHaliburton County and that stop logs at the dams throughout thesystem should be put in later in the year.
Minden resident Patricia Walshereferred to a report from engineering firm AECOM Canada that wascommissioned following the 2013 flood.
That report which cleared Parks Canadastaff of any human error that may have led to the flood included anumber of recommendations for future operations.
“Their recommendation to you at thattime was that you have a much more advanced modelling system”Walshe said. “Have you done anything about the modelling system? Isthere a new modelling system being put in?”
Cunningham responded that the TSW hashad some work done on a water-flow modelling system.
“We are adding that to our toolbox inorder to make better decisions” she said. “That is somethingwe've commenced.”
Cunningham said the system has notreached the scale of the recommendations in the AECOM report andthat there was some risk in making decisions based solely on digitalmodelling.
“It's really a difficult system tomodel as well” she said of the TSW.
Minden Hills Reeve and HaliburtonCounty Warden Brent Devolin has said he'd like to see lidar mappingdone throughout the area. Lidar mapping uses a laser-based system toproduce very detailed topographical images. Any flood mitigationinfrastructure projects in Minden – which he's stressed wouldrequire the co-operation of and funding from the provincial andfederal levels of government – would be based on the lidarmapping.
“I definitely need willing partnersat the provincial and federal levels” Devolin told the crowd.
Meetings between cabinet ministers andDevolin along with Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Jamie Schmaleand MPP Laurie Scott are scheduled to take place at the Associationof Municipalities of Ontario conference in Ottawa in August.
Provincial Minister of MunicipalAffairs and Housing Bill Mauro visited Minden during flooding in Mayand Devolin pointed out that Mauro is from Thunder Bay a city thathas had its own problems with major floods in recent years
“He gets it” said Devolin who'smade it clear he expects to have some sort of agreement in placebetween the municipality and the provincial and federal levels ofgovernment regarding flood mitigation in the near future. “If wedon't I may be done in this business.”
The municipality was recently approvedfor funding for a drainage study through the National DisasterMitigation Program.
Devolin who himself lives in aflood-affected area said he had neighbours who this time aroundtook preventative measures on their properties. He said that perhapsresidents should be looking at making alterations to their propertiesand that while everyone may not be able to afford that hinted thatperhaps some municipal assistance could be made available for suchprojects.
He also suggested that floodplainmapping and other such studies may lead to some results thatresidents may not like. In some flood-affected communities Devolinused New Orleans as an example properties deemed no longer suitablefor human habitation have been expropriated by local governments.
“We will identify properties that wemay have . . . to expropriate” he said. “That's where this roadmay lead.”
Some dams in Haliburton County arebeing replaced through millions of dollars in federal funding. Some$500 million is being spent on the rehabilitation of TSWinfrastructure and some $59 million of that is being spent in thecounty.
Devolin has credited a new dam atKennisis Lake for holding back more water than the old dam would haveand has indicated that when the dam at the foot of Gull Lake isreplaced it will have more flow capacity than the current dam.
The dam at Horseshoe Lake is currentlyunder reconstruction.
Cunningham said that modern winchingsystems on the new dams mean log operations can be completed quicker.
In all water from 28 reservoir lakesmakes it way through the singular channel of the Gull River as itpasses through the village of Minden. Devolin also said at Tuesday'smeeting that he believes at some point that channel will have to bedeepened and/or widened.
There was concern about raw sewage thatwas put into the Gull River during the flood as the township'ssewage treatment infrastructure was inundated with high levels.
Minden Hills environmental and propertyoperations manager Ivan Ingram confirmed that while sewage had beenbypassed into the river it's a practice that is within theregulations of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
“It's not a practice that we like todo but it is a practice that is accepted by the MOECC” Ingramsaid. “And we have no choice.”
“People need to be notified”Walshe told him emphasizing that residents of the river were notaware of the sewage being put into its waters.
Ingram said that when the practice isundertaken the Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unitis notified by the township.
“It is in my opinion the healthunit's job to do that [notify residents]” Ingram said. “We don'tknow who's downriver.”
There seemed to be consensus amongresidents that the 2017 flood was better handled by the township thanthe 2013 flood.
Using an emergency plan that wasapproved by council in 2016 a municipal control group that includedthe reeve and deputy-reeve along with the township's senior staffhad daily conference calls with reps from the TSW MNRF and otheragencies.
Information from those meetings wasrelayed to the public via press releases on the township's websiteand through press conferences held throughout the time of the flood.
The township will also be making dataand information from Tuesday night's meeting publicly available onits website and at the township administration office.
It was clear that action on floodmitigation is not coming quickly enough for many residents.
Barry Cray who owns Gordon A. MonkFuneral Home with wife Kirsten Monk told Devolin his businesslocated along Bobcaygeon Road near its intersection with Deep BayRoad could not withstand another flood.
“In 2013 it cost me $600000 to getmy place back in order for a 100-year event” Cray said. Thisyear the damage was in the neighbourhood of $250000 although thebusiness was able to get some help from its insurance company.
Cray said he must now build a berm onthe property.
“Nobody here seems to want to beaccountable” he said. “What are we going to do? Do the math. Icannot survive a third flood. I will be leaving town. . . We needsome structural change within this town and we need it down now.”
Devolin stressed that finding asolution to flooding in Minden would be a long complicated processinvolving three levels of government.
“There is nobody on this earth whocan wave a wand and make that happen” he said.
Resident Patrick Walshe said a commondefinition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over andover again and expecting different results.
“We're hearing the same thing now weheard four years ago” Patrick said. “I'm sure everyone's doingtheir job.”
He said what is required is politicalaction.
“Where does the buck stop?” hesaid. “We can't keep coming back here and hear MNR say we're doingour job and we're getting pretty good marks . . . I still to thisday don't know who's going to fix this. I really don't.”
“You're right it's a politicaldecision” Devolin said. “It begins with a political dialogue.It's a joint responsibility. Nobody has the unilateral authority todeal with that. It's going to take all three [levels of government]dancing together.”
MP Jamie Schmale was in attendance andalso stressed that flood mitigation would require all three levels ofgovernment working together which is time-consuming.
“These things take time . . . thingsare in process” Schmale said. “The problem is governmentworking together it takes a while.”
The three-hour-long meeting wasmediated by former Times owner and publisher Jack Brezina.