Less than an hour after Québec Public Security Minister, Geneviève Guilbault visited Lachute Thursday afternoon to assess the flooding on Rivière du Nord, an evacuation notice was issued for residents living below the Bell Falls Dam on Rivière Rouge in Grenville-sur-la Rouge.

Flooding on the Rouge River has put the dam at risk of failure and residents were told to leave the area immediately.

Meanwhile, in Lachute, Guilbault said every resource the Québec government has is being made available to assist with the flooding along rivers and in communities throughout the southwestern part of the province.  She referred to the collaboration on the effort from the Public Security department, municipalities, fire departments, police, the Ministère des Transports, and the Canadian Armed Forces.

Guilbault said 1,000 soldiers are assisting, with 30 currently serving in the Laurentides region.

“I will not hesitate to ask for more if necessary,” said the minister.

She explained that authorities are taking a strategic approach to how to deploy resources and assistance where it is most needed.

The minister’s visit took place next to an apartment building on Rue Thomas where the Rivière du Nord has risen to the back walls of the buildings.  On the nearby streets, public works crews, firefighters, and volunteers are filling sandbags to protect the properties.  Gravel was being laid atop the pavement on Rue Thomas to keep the street accessible to emergency vehicles.  The Sûreté du Québec is strictly controlling vehicle and pedestrian traffic in the neighbourhood.

Property owners who live next to the river along Avenue d’Argenteuil were also placing sandbags around their homes and businesses.  A retaining wall separates the river from the street in that part of town, and the water is actually above street level.

The Québec government is offering $200,000 to homeowners who choose to leave their properties in flood zones and resettle elsewhere.

Guilbault defended criticism that $200,000 is not enough money to persuade some property owners to move.

However, the minister said $200,000 is the average value of a house in Québec and there is also a need for the government to use public finances responsibly.

She said many homeowners are supportive of the amount because they are tired of living with flooding.

Information sessions will be held locally on how property owners can receive compensation from the provincial government and other help following the flooding.

According to Guilbault, once the current flood emergency is over, the government is planning discussions to ensure more proactive decision making and flood disaster prevention, “Instead of always preparing for floods and then paying.”

Lachute Mayor Carl Péloquin said an official state of emergency has not been declared in the city because of the flooding, but it could happen if it becomes financially necessary.

Flooding on Rivère du Nord in Lachute. Photo: James Morgan