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Flooding along Rivière du Nord in St-André d'Argenteuil in April 2019. Photo: James Morgan

Local municipalities look ahead to spring flood season

After flood emergencies in the spring of 2019, municipalities along the Ottawa and du Nord rivers are preparing for what could happen this spring.

St-André d’Argenteuil

The hardest-hit municipality in 2019 was St-André d’Argenteuil, which is at the confluence of Rivière du Nord and the Ottawa River.

“Prepare for the worst, pray for the best,” was how Mayor Marc-Olivier Labelle described preparations for possible flooding this spring.  He said the municipality is always preparing and has a supply of 60,000 sandbags for whenever they are needed.  The municipality also can access an additional supply from the MRC d’Argenteuil.

Council decided to allocate an extra $10,000 to an emergency reserve fund this year.  Labelle said the “real money cost” of last year’s flood emergency is still unknown but he said it cost the municipality at least $100,000 without factoring in what residents paid to have buildings demolished or diminished property values.  He said there are also extra costs from the additional time the municipal planning director and other staff had to contribute.

The Québec government reimbursed affected property owners for 75 per cent of their flood-related expenses, but Labelle said it’s the other 25 per cent that pose a financial challenge.

In fall 2019, Labelle proposed a program to resettle residents in the most flood-prone parts of St-André d’Argenteuil to other areas of the municipality where new development land is available.  He has been trying to persuade the Québec government to support the plan.

“There’s progress every day on this,” said Labelle.

He anticipated more news on the resettlement proposal would be available in early April.

Lachute

In Lachute, neighbourhoods along Rivière-du-Nord experienced significant flooding in 2019.  Mayor Carl Péloquin said the city is not yet concerned about the possibility of a repeat situation this year.

“It depends on how fast it’s going to melt in the springtime,” he said.

Péloquin noted that this winter’s snowfall amount has been lower than last year.

He said that Lachute was prepared for the 2019 flood, and that some parts of the municipality flood every spring, but the only question is over how severely.

Alfred and Plantagenet

In Ontario, the Township of Alfred and Plantagenet is taking a proactive approach to any possible flooding that could take place along the Ottawa River this spring.

“This year, we decided to warn the people,” said Mayor Stéphane Sarrazin.

Unlike in 2019, the township will not be providing direct assistance to citizens affected by flooding unless there is a life-threatening situation where the fire and rescue department is required.  Sarrazin said flooding affected approximately 30 properties last year but 4,400 taxpayers cannot cover the cost.

The township is planning to communicate to residents in at-risk areas about their need to be prepared.  No sandbags will be provided by the township this spring to residents affected by flooding either.

According to Sarrazin, Alfred and Plantagenet spent $50,000 to $70,000 due to last spring’s floods.  However, it did not spend enough to be eligible for support from the Ontario government.

Clarence-Rockland

The City of Clarence-Rockland has one million sandbags on standby if flooding is serious this spring, said Mayor Guy Desjardins.

“Now we have a real rescue boat,” he added.

The city purchased the new pontoon boat for approximately $60,000 because the old one could barely accommodate firefighters, equipment, and rescue victims safely.  The city sold the old boat.

Desjardins said that the city is awaiting its approximately $1 million payment in disaster assistance funding from the Ontario government, but he has been assured the cheque will arrive.

James Morgan

James Morgan is a freelance contributor. He has worked for several print and broadcast media outlets. James loves the history, natural beauty, and people of eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

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