“We hope we don’t get another one,” said Mayor Guy Desjardins during an interview January 10, but he noted that city staff and residents have learned some valuable lessons the hard way from the 2017 and 2019 spring floods. “We, at the City, are now looking closely at the location of flood areas,” said the mayor. “We are trying to discourage people from building in floodplain areas, especially now that we have proof that there is a problem.”
Any landowner who does insist on building in one of the local floodplains along the river will get a reminder from city officials that there are specific building design conditions that must be followed. Current municipal guidelines for any new construction in a floodplain area require a higher minimum elevation for building foundations in an effort to keep a house or cottage or other structure out of reach of rising floodwater.
Last year’s flood saw the Pago Road and Voisin Street neighbourhoods in Rockland inundated. But Desjardins noted that a couple of new houses built in those areas last year were “not affected”, because the owners followed the municipal floodplain construction guidelines.
Big as England
Two regional conservation authorities, the provincial and federal governments, Ontario and Québec hydro outfits, the City of Ottawa, and others monitor water-level conditions for the Ottawa River. Mayor Desjardins noted that even with all that monitoring, a flood can and will happen if conditions are right.
“One thing I learned last year is that the basin of the Ottawa River is the size of England,” he said. “Mother Nature is the one in control. You can put in all the dams you want, but you can’t hold back all the water.”
What Clarence-Rockland and other riverside municipalities can do, noted both Desjardins and Fire Chief Brian Wilson, emergency services director for the city, is to make sure they are as prepared as possible if a flood should occur. The city’s emergency plan was revised after the 2017 flooding, and some of the recommendations like the purchase of new portable generators and a new fire rescue boat, helped the municipality better deal with last year’s spring flood.
“We have gained a lot of information,” said Desjardins. “We have gained a lot of experience that is beneficial.”
“We are well poised to be able to deal with situations,” said Chief Wilson, adding that revising the emergency plan was a critical part of success in dealing with last year’s flood situation. “It really focuses on an all-hazards approach to emergencies. It’s more flexible and allows us to address all plans and situations.”