Come Hell or high water

Percy & flood.jpg
April 3, 1974: The late Percy Cregan filling his  oil truck at the Wilson C. depot on Halcro, where the Jack Layton Park parking lot is now. (Hudson Gazette archives photo courtesy Rod Hodgson)

There’s nothing like a strong spring flood on the Ottawa to clean things up and expose weaknesses. This year’s melt is stronger than it’s been in a while, with every river, creek and stream between here and Lake Timiskaming draining meltwater from the Laurentian Shield to the Ottawa’s intersection with the St. Lawrence. The Ottawa’s flood will continue until every watershed has drained its snowpack, usually by mid-June. According to experts like Norm St. Aubin, we can expect several crests depending on the depth of the snow and the intensity of spring rains. I’m not referring to here and now.

Wikipedia: The Ottawa River drains into the Lake of Two Mountains and the St. Lawrence River at Montreal. The river is 1,271 kilometres (790 mi) long; it drains an area of 146,300 square kilometres (56,500 sq mi), 65 percent in Quebec and the rest in Ontario, with a mean discharge of 1,950 cubic metres per second (69,000 cu ft/s).[2]

The average annual mean waterflow measured at Carillon dam, near the Lake of Two Mountains, is 1,939 cubic metres per second (68,500 cu ft/s), with average annual extremes of 749 to 5,351 cubic metres per second (26,500 to 189,000 cu ft/s). Record historic levels since 1964 are a low of 529 cubic metres per second (18,700 cu ft/s) in 2005 and a high of 8,190 cubic metres per second (289,000 cu ft/s) in 1976. 

Before the Carillon Dam was completed in the early ’60s, this area flooded up to where Halcro and Wharf roads join. Since then, Hydro Quebec has recorded five years in which the flood crested above the 25-year mark and one year (1976) when it stopped inches short of the 100-year mark. When Tom Mulcair was Jean Charest’s environment minister, he enacted legislation which made it illegal for municipalities to allow construction of any permanent structure within the 25-year line and no permanently inhabited structure within the 100-year mark. Since then, the province has walked it back to allow areas between the 25-year and 100-year lines to be backfilled once a developer is able to satisfy the ministry’s wetland-flipping requirement.

Yesterday I walked Sandy Beach. I stood where Nicanco proposes to build townhouses. It’s squishy soft underfoot, with the Viviry feeding dozens of freshets through the wetlands Nicanco now has permission to backfill.

Nicanco may have obeyed the letter of the law but I’m curious to see if it will be able to satisfy the more exacting, implacable rules of nature. Will the storm sewers in the proposed 100-door townhouse development be above high water? (I’m assuming every one of these structures will be built on concrete slab without a basement, finished or otherwise.) Will Pine Beach occasionally resemble Pincourt’s rue Duhamel, with makeshift walkways, diesel pumps and sandbagged manholes? Will the sanitary sewers be able to continue pumping sewage into the collectors?

During the flooding - small.JPG
Pincourt’s rue Duhamel. The town has invested heavily in storm sewers, but nothing can drain the combined floodwaters of the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the project can’t be built, but Hudson’s taxpayers need to be reassured they won’t be on the hook every time the Ottawa River demonstrates it doesn’t care where the bureaucrats draw their little red lines.

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9 thoughts on “Come Hell or high water

  1. Thanks Jim. As always concise and to the point. The best question that you raised: Will taxpayers be on the hook, later on down the road, to clean up the mess that would be made by building in floodplain?

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  2. Hardly concisely. Anything built above the 100 yr. floodline can be raised to any ht. the developer wishes w/ as much fill as he wishes. The final bldg. ht . by our bylaws is measured from finished grade, ( Pls. see giant mansion on Quarry Point) He can fill anything he wishes and start building. Between the 20 and 100 there is nothing about wetland land swaps at all unless there is a specific area specified as being environmentally sensitive . Any one can build between the 20 and 100 as long as there are no access points below the 20 year elevation and the backfill around it is not sloped at less than 3:1. ( Pls . see giant mansion on Quarry Point) There is a total of around 12 inches between the 20 and 100 yr. floodlines so I think we can do away with the hyperbole of the river rising to within inches of the 100 yr. floodline and just to be clear I don’t think we should be relying on Hydro Quebec for accurate floodlines. I have a waterfront property w/ a seawall which happens to have a top equal to the 20 yr. floodline as measured by Arsenault Bourbonnais and it hasn’t risen over that wall in 100 yrs. One more thing we just had 3 days of rain , Jim so I’m guessing the top of Rigaud mountain is “squishy” right now.

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    1. Brian, I must call you out on a few of those remarks as being somewhat inaccurate. Firstly, in Hudson’s there are many regulations regarding flood plains both within the 20yr and the 100yr flood plains. Although these laws can be disregarded by council, we can hold them to it and show any disrespect of our support in the municipal elections.

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      1. I think the whole subject needs accuracy from Mr.Muhlegg to the Save the Beachers to the administration to the general public’s perceptions . I am pretty familiar with the flood and fill rules but if I’ve missed something or been inaccurate ( entirely possible) I and others need to have it pointed out precisely , Austin. A council has to respect its own bylaws and those of the MRC and MDDEFP or risk a costly legal judgment going against them down the line so we do need to be concise and deal with what is spelled out in these laws.

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      1. Jim, from my understanding, Brian is saying that the law states they can do as much backfilling as they want which is not entirely accurate. He states the same for between the 20yr and 100yr floodplain that unless there is an environmentally sensitive area they can do the same, again both the provincial and municipal governments have laws in place that regulate it. And He is questioning the fact that the river is rising close to the 20yr floodplain elevation.

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      2. OK, got it. I never claimed the river was anywhere near any historic high-water marks. To be able to make any such claim I’d have to call Hydro Quebec PR and ask them to ask the Carillon, Baskatong and Gouin dam operators, which they would do and get back to me. that’s what we did at the Hudson Gazette every spring but I wouldn’t dare suggest that any of our local media are in any way remiss in not doing so. My point was that the Ottawa occasionally overflows its banks and folks should prepare for the worst, not the average. If we don’t, who pays for the cleanup?

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