By Jenn Watt
Published May 16, 2017
We’ve all been watching Minden in the last weeks as the waters crept higher and higher over riverbanks and then streets, flooding homes and cottages along the Gull River. On many of the lakes that feed the Gull, residences have also been flooded as Parks Canada attempts to mitigate the effect of substantial rainfall over a short period of time.
Many of the lakes in northern Haliburton County act as reservoirs for the Trent Severn Waterway down south and as such are controlled by Parks Canada staff. As they took measures to reduce the flow in the Gull, water levels rose on other lakes around the county.
This extra water is courtesy of Mother Nature, who in recent years has taken to delivering frequent angry deluges and increasingly violent storms in this area.
In April, this county saw between 100 and 125 millimetres of rain (the average is 76 mm). Then, in the first week of May, another 100 to 125 mm fell (the average for the whole month is 93).
That’s a lot of water to manage without causing some flooding.
There seems to be consensus that the newly constructed Kennisis Lake Dam helped avoid an even worse flooding scenario in Minden by allowing the TSW staff to hold back more water.
Unfortunately, no matter how the water is managed, when we get volumes of rain well above average, it’s going to cause problems. Rivers are going to swell their banks. Lakes are going to take over private property.
Some property owners are asking what the government can do for them. Surely when they bought their cottages and homes they weren’t expecting this kind of damage – especially on such a regular basis.
The concept of the “100 year flood” seems to be going by the wayside. Climate change ensures that weather around the world will be increasingly wild, breaking records and “rules” along the way.
In Minden, the province announced last week it would be activating the Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontario Program for the area. However, that’s not an option for everyone.
Dysart et al Reeve Murray Fearrey said conversations will need to happen with Parks Canada about how these scenarios can be better anticipated. However, with climate change, it’s unlikely a perfect system could ever be devised to stop flooding.
Perhaps the best thing governments can do is offer incentives to private landowners to retrofit their properties for floods and other climate change related disasters. We’ve seen tax credits for accessibility modifications and energy saving measures. It may be time to add another category.
In the coming months we will surely hear more about the specifics of this year’s water management, however, wild weather is becoming the new normal.
We need to prepare for that.