According to the mayor of Grenville-sur-la-Rouge, it is too soon to know how development restrictions in flood zones will affect property values.

Last spring, the area of the Rouge River valley south of the Bell Falls Dam was evacuated for two weeks out of concern that the dam could not withstand the floodwaters on the Rouge.  Since that time, the Rouge Valley has been placed within the Québec government’s new Special Intervention Zone (SIZ) which prohibits new development due to flood and safety hazards.

The SIZ was established in June and July, and Mayor Tom Arnold said it is unlikely it will cause property tax assessment values to increase.  He said they are more likely to decrease because of restrictions on new construction.

“To my knowledge, there has not been enough time to put in new values,” said Arnold.

There are approximately 100 properties within the SIZ in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge, according to Arnold.  Owners of existing dwellings could be eligible for building permits if improvements are required.  However, those will be examined on a case-by-case basis.  The mayor said that the elevation of the buildings is one of the factors that will be taken into consideration.  Electricity will not be permitted in the basements of any new buildings within the zone.  Permits will not be issued for properties in the SIZ that are presently undeveloped.  The municipality can only issue permits within the restrictions of the provincially-imposed SIZ regulations.

As for the Bell Falls dam, Arnold said Hydro-Québec is testing the former hydroelectric facility and efforts are being made to ensure a solution is in place before the 2020 spring thaw and flood season.

“No one wants to re-live this,” said Arnold, referring to evacuations in the spring of 2019 when the spring run-off appeared to be threatening the dam structure and hence, those who lived downstream.

Bridge blocked until next year

The Avoca Bridge will be repaired in 2020.  The deteriorated bridge across Rouge River was closed at the end of May, after being restricted to a five-tonne load limit since June 2018.

Arnold said he has been assured by the Ministère des transports du Québec (MTQ) that the project has been prioritized for the 2020 construction season.

Meanwhile, traffic between Harrington and Grenville-sur-la-Rouge still must follow much longer, alternate routes because of the closed bridge.

Arnold said the transportation ministry does not want any further risks to safety from the poor condition of the bridge.

“They’re just being safe,” he said.

Bell Falls and the hydroelectric station on Rivière Rouge. Photo: James Morgan

The Avoca Bridge, which carries Chemin Walker and provides an important link for local traffic, will be closed until major repairs are made in 2020. Photo: James Morgan

Looking downstream on Rivière Rouge at the Avoca Bridge. Photo: James Morgan