MPP Tells Conservation Authority They Should Wait Until After Provincial, Municipal Elections To Make Drastic Flood Plain Changes
By Manotick Messenger Staff
A crowd of more than 100 local residents turned out to a public meeting on flood plain mapping hosted by the RVCA at the Alf Taylor Community Centre in North Gower on Thurs., April 21.
Many of the residents in attendance were not happy with the RVCA over the organization’s remapping of the Steven’s Creek floodplain. They were upset because they were not consulted and had no input, and for many of the landowners near Steven’s Creek, there were huge implications which were both practical and financial.
Carleton Progressive Conservative MPP Goldie Ghamari pushed hard for the implementation of the new mapping to be put on hold until a public meeting could be held. Because of COVID-19, a public meeting was not an option. Without Ghamari stepping in, the public meeting may never have happened.
RVCA Executive Director Sommer Casgrain-Robertson opened the meeting with a half hour presentation on the RVCA’s role and how the mapping of the 156 square kilometre area was done. She explained that previous mapping had been done in 1972 and 1995. She said sine the old mapping was more than 25 years old, it was time for it to be updated.
As a result of new data made available to the RVCA, the new flood line is anywhere between 18 and 55 centimetres higher than the previous one. Many of the landowners saw a significant amount of the properties fall below the new flood line. Since structures or buildings are not permitted to be built below the flood line, much of the land in question has lost options for usage as well as its worth.
“Very rarely have we seen a study change this much,” Casgrain-Robertson said. “The results were a cause for concern. It made our staff step back and ask why. It made us go back and triple and quadruple check everything we had done.”
Spring Vs Summer
Casgrain-Robertson explained to the audience that the reason for the big change in mapping is that the numbers used for mapping in the 1972 and 1995 studies were based on spring flood levels. She said the data used for this study was from the summer.
“It was recognized in 1972 and in 1995 again that Steven’s Creek was more likely to have significant flooding from a summer rain event than the spring melt, but at the time there was not enough or any climactic data to be able to model a summer storm,” she said.
As a result, the flood mapping results showed a significant difference.
“It’s not that this new study is overestimating the flood risk,” Casgrain-Robertson said. “It’s really understanding that 1972 and 1995 were understating the flood risk.”
The RVCA used 39 years of data collected by Environment Canada. Casgrain-Robertson said that based on their data, a once-in-a-100-year summer storm event would receive 123 mm of rain over a 24-hour period. That model provided the extent of flooding that such a summer storm would cause.
The summer storm of July 2017 was referenced throughout the night. It caused significant flooding in the Steven’s Creek area as more than 100 mm of rain fell.
What the RVCA was selling, most of the people in attendance were not buying.
As the question and answer segment of the evening began, the people holding the mic became less and less patient with the reasoning the RVCA was giving for the new flood map.
“Why am I affected? Why is my father affected? Why are all these people here affected? Because of a hypothetical storm,” said North Gower resident Roger Wilson. “The overreach of what you’re doing is disgusting. You really should be ashamed of yourselves, because once you do this, what is going to happen? You’re going to turn North Gower into Barrhaven or the next Kanata.”
Pat McCordick, who attended the meeting with her husband Dan, also got up to speak at the meeting.
“The proposed flood plain boundary elevation in no way represents the historical or reasonable level,” she said. “We have personally witnessed the flood of 1976 and the summer event of 2017. Our property never flooded beyond the current boundaries. The bulk of the RVCA 2020 report is focused on ‘what if’ modelling with synthetic rainfall events.”
After learning of the RVCA’s new flood mapping, the McCordick’s contacted the office of Carleton MPP Goldie Ghamari to express their frustration with the RVCA. Ghamari took their actions to the top at Queen’s Park, and the McCordick’s received a phone call from Ontario Premier Doug Ford to discuss their situation.
McCordick was critical of what she called insufficient or incomplete information on the soil in the area, and added that the survey did not take drainage tiles into consideration. She also criticized the RVCA report for having all future developments within the flood plain boundary, while the majority of existing residences fell outside the flood plain boundary.
“If we’re going to dream about possible rainfall events, what about the possibility of modifying existing drainage tools to withstand a 100-year rainfall,” she said. “We have ditches, culverts and drainage systems. Perhaps the RVCA could come up with a list of modifications to the current drainage system to withstand the synthetic rainfall events we find in their report, rather than just regulating more land.”
McCordick added that the new mapping was an example of a conservation authority exercising excessive control over landowners.
“How do we protect ourselves as property owners?” McCordick asked. “How do we fight a report that’s based on fictional numbers?”
Another issue raised from the crowd was the new warehouse that is being built at Roger Stevens Drive and Highway 416. The site for the warehouse would fall outside the permitted boundary, but it is going ahead as planned as the new regulations have not yet gone into effect.
Jen Wallace of North Gower raised two more questions that caused murmuring in the crowd. Her family has lived on the farm since 1929.
“What is this going to do to our insurance?” she asked.
Wallace also mentioned that the new mapping put her house in the new flood area.
“When our house meets its demise, where is it going to go?” she asked. “I won’t be able to build my house in the same spot that it is today because of your summer mapping.”
Wallace also said that no one has mentioned that the water levels are raised in the summer for the boasts to go through the area on the Rideau River.
Larry Shouldice was also direct in his criticism of the RVCA.
“What we’re asking for here is a little bit of latitude,” Shouldice said. “Work with the community and come up with some solutions. There is nobody here who has any trust or faith in the conservation authority.”
Shouldice was also critical of how the RVCA is planning to designate farmland as a flood zone while a few kilometres to the north on Borrisokane Road north of Barnsdale, Caivan has been permitted to build a neighbourhood in Barrhaven.
“If that isn’t flood plain, I don’t know what is,” he said. “I farmed over there, and there is three feet of water in the spring. But they took them out of the floodplain, and now they’re building houses. But North Gower? Nope. You’re in the flood plain.”
Shouldice said that in 2000, his farm went from having a half acre in the flood area to having 30 acres in the flood area.
“You folks are responsible for the issues that we’re having,” Shouldice said. “You won’t let the water go in the spring, and you won’t let us clean the ditches.
Ghamari Asks ‘Why Rush Things?’
Carleton MPP Goldie Ghamari thanked everyone for coming and thanked the RVCA for hosting the meeting. She said the issue was taken very seriously by her and the province, to the point where Premier Ford got personally involved and called Van and Pat McCordick to discuss the flood plain situation. She added that Ontario’s Minster of Environment, Conservation and Parks David Piccini is also fully aware of the situation.
Ghamari said that these changes should be looked at after the election, as she transitions from MPP to candidate after the dropping of the writ and the campaign begins for the June 2 provincial election. A municipal election will take place a few months later. Ghamari pointed out that not only will the city have a new councillor with Scott Moffatt not seeking re-election, but there will also be a new mayor as Jim Watson will be stepping down.
“I’m hoping we’re able to hold off on a decision until after the election,” she said. “Because in a couple of weeks, the people sitting in this room will have zero representation, and I don’t think that’s fair to anyone.”
“The decisions made are going to impact every single person in this room,” she said. “It’s important that we slow this process down and wait until we have a new government, both provincially and municipally, and then we can see what will happen with these regulations.”
After the meeting, Casgrain-Robertson thanked everyone and assured the attendees that their comments were heard and will be taken back to the RVCA staff.