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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Time to build up the dikes

Time to build up the dikes
Short-term fixes are needed to address flood risk while area waits for approval for its canal project
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Holland Marsh flood fears


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April 5.

If Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor Frank Jonkman really shares the fears of Art Janse about the Holland Marsh filling up with water, why is the town governance sitting on its laurels waiting for approval for a grand project when it could be doing something right now to build up the dikes at the lowest point? Why has it not cleaned out the canals for more than two decades and let things get to the point where it is demanding $4 million out of a few farmers' pockets?

My grandmother, a Holland Marsh resident and landowner, received a letter in 2001 from a drainage engineering firm commissioned by the town stating that the canals were full of sediment and that there is a high flood risk. What they did not state and which I found out after talking to Janse is that should the dikes be breached, the water will come up as high as eight feet on the house where my grandmother lives.

The fire department's rescue plan is non-existent. They are convinced that sandbagging will fix any dike breach. Is my grandmother to sit on her roof awaiting rescue? Driving out in time is not an option. By the time she notices the water, Canal Road, the only way out of the marsh for her, will be flooded over. In 1954, marsh residents knew a flood was coming because they were all on party phone lines and the phones were ringing non-stop in the evening when they were in from the field. Everyone listened in on the news at the same time. Today's flood warning system consists of a press release from the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority. And the conservation authority relies on an outdated hydraulic warning system, rather than a newer user-friendly software model.

The least the municipality could do is warn residents to stock up on food and water in case they need rescuing. The most it could do is put forth short-term fixes as options to temporarily address flood risk while it waits for approval for its grand canal project, and aggressively lobby government for funding.

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