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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Worst may not be over - Flooding

Worst may not be over
Opening of Lock 42 could raise level of already high rivers
Not everyone will be welcoming the warm conditions forecast for this week.

Severn Township Mayor Phil Sled learned Monday there’s still “considerable snow” in the headwaters, and warm temperatures could cause the Black River — which has levelled off — to rise again later in the week.

“It’s the Black River that’s creating all the problems for us,” Sled said after a meeting attended by officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Trent-Severn Waterway, police, the health unit and other agencies.

Trent-Severn officials completely closed Lock 42 on Saturday to slow the flow from Lake Simcoe. However, the lock can’t remain closed. When it’s reopened, as Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton warned on the weekend, levels in the Severn River will rise.

Sled advised residents to keep sandbags at the ready.

That’s what the Heyders, who live on Lauderdale Point Crescent, have done.

While their driveway remains under water, it’s down a foot since Friday, said Marjorie Heyder: “We understand they’re going to open the lock, so that will probably do us in again.”

The water hasn’t yet reached the house, but the Heyders have sandbags at their patio door and more ready for the garage door if necessary.

About 30,000 tons of sand have been distributed to residents, said Sled.

Those who live by the Black and Severn rivers aren’t the only ones warily watching the water rise.

Area resident Mark Elgar told The Packet & Times water levels in Lake St. John, in Ramara Township, have gone up 18 inches since Thursday morning.

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“As water from the Black River continues to pour over the top of the dam on the St. John Creek, the water level in Lake St. John is rising at a rate of about four to five inches a day,” he wrote in an e-mail.

The water “will keep going up until the Black subsides below the level of the dam, which could be quite a while,” he wrote. “This is about to become a serious problem.”

Severn residents can get sand and sandbags at three locations: the intersection of Canal and Cambrian roads; Washago Centennial Park (3376 Quetton St.); and the intersection of Bennett Drive and Peninsula Point Road. Residents are asked to bring their own shovels and means of transporting the sandbags.

A press release from the township also warned of the potential of contaminated drinking water in drilled or dug wells. More information regarding post-flood cleanup and safety procedures can be found on the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit website (www.simcoemuskokahealth.org).

Also, updates will be posted daily on Stanton’s website (www.brucestanton.ca).

An emergency situation has not been declared in Severn, but Sled said contingencies — including evacuation and temporary relocation — are in place if necessary.

People downstream on the Black River “should be giving thanks for the wetlands that are there,” said Ron Reid, executive director of the Couchiching Conservancy.

If they weren’t in place, “we’d be looking at major problems,” he noted, pointing to agricultural southern Ontario, where “80 per cent of wetlands have been cleared and converted into farmland.”

“It’s very well-documented that the result of that is you get more flooding downstream.”

Planners don’t always consider the potential of natural disaster when building near a watercourse, he said: “People who purchase there in good faith are the ones who suffer the consequences.”

As Ramara and Severn struggle with rising water, Oro-Medonte Township has been lucky.

“We were expecting to get some flooding, but we didn’t,” said Mayor Harry Hughes. “We had far more concerns about flooding back in January.”

When flooding does occur in the township, which has a higher elevation than surrounding areas, Willow Creek is usually the source.

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