Municipality taking action in response to high water levels
Mike Lawrence - Staff Writer
The Municipality of Sioux Lookout has shared measures it is taking to protect people and property as area water levels rise.
In a media release dated May 18, Public Works Operations Manager, Mat Lelonde, stated, “We are working directly with residents impacted by flooding in low lying areas and are providing targeted support. Lakeshore Drive is being sandbagged, as the water is now level with the road. A section of Ethel Street is also closed, due to water over the road at the far east end. Sturgeon River Road had a small washout at the first culvert past the hotels.”
As of May 19, Sturgeon River Road has been closed between the Jeremiah McKay Kabayshewekamik Hostel and Mennonite Rd.
Other areas closed to foot traffic include the pedestrian bridge at the Travel Information Centre, which has been blocked at both ends.
The Municipality informed it is prepared to deal with increasing water levels, with a large number of sandbags on hand to respond to changing conditions. “We have also been successful in securing additional sandbags for use by residents to protect their properties. Residents wishing to pick up empty sandbags to protect their properties may visit our Public Works office from 7:30 a.m. until noon and from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday. Sandbags can be filled at the Third Avenue ball diamonds, where sand will be available at no cost.”
The Municipality is currently working with the Province to have the Municipality designated a flood area.
Doing so may allow individuals to be eligible for provincial disaster mitigation relief funding under the Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians program.
Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance explained, “We are pushing to get answers from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. So far what we have learned is that the area has to be declared a flood area by the Ministry. We have been putting together as much evidence as we can, to support that. Then if they think an assessment is worthwhile, they send a team to do that assessment. Once we are declared a flood area then my understanding is that individuals can be eligible to make claims through the assistance program that the province has.”
Lawrance continued, “The provincial process is that you have to exhaust all your own insurance avenues first, then you go on the claim. My experience tells me if you’re going to make an insurance claim, the more evidence, such as photo documentation, records, dates of events... the more evidence you have as an individual, the better chance you will have of your claim standing.”
“My heart goes out to anybody who is experiencing problems,” Lawrance added. “Some people have the extreme problem of their homes being flooded and they’ve had to move out. I’d say there are maybe 15 or 20 homes at risk in Sioux Lookout, out in different areas.”
Lawrance is also asking that people respect the road closed signs, and not to go touring by car or by boat, adding “Especially in areas where homes are exposed to the lake. Anybody in a boat… don’t create a wake in areas close to homes. It’s just going to exacerbate a bad situation. Try to be thoughtful in those ways.”
The Municipality is asking property owners who may have suffered damage to their principal residence or business to contact them at 737-2700 during regular business hours. Alternatively, residents can email the information to [email protected].
One such property owner is Colleen DeKelver. With the section of Lakeshore Drive where DeKelver’s home is located currently under water, DeKelver is finding the worst part so far is the constant traffic.
As DeKelver explains, “Some people are very considerate and just crawl by, which is what I need. But some people are driving way too fast. The thing is this road, with all this water, over it and underneath it, if there’s too much traffic, people are going to ruin the road and there’s going to be a hole.”
As of May 19, a sign had been placed at the entrance to Lakeshore Drive indicating the road is closed to all but local traffic.
Darrell Morgan has been monitoring water levels at his property as well and notes, “It’s been a steady increase. I’ve just been doing it out of self interest. I don’t have any property affected by it right now other than docks. There’s a whole bunch of other people way worse off than I am in certain areas along the lakeshore that are experiencing physical damage to their property. It’s been increasing a consistent six inches a day.” Morgan also commented that as far as he can remember, this is as bad as it’s gotten, stating, “This is the highest I’ve seen it myself, maybe some old timers have seen it higher, but this is the highest I’ve recorded it since I moved out here onto the waterfront in 1980. 2001 was very close, but we’ve exceeded the 2001 level now as well. 2001 was higher than 2014, and we are now higher than 2001.” Morgan also feels that there are things the general public can do to mitigate any damages the water may be causing homeowners, especially now that boating season is beginning. Morgan suggests keeping boat speeds down and staying to the centre of the channel wherever possible to avoid sending the wake up onto peoples’ properties, noting “The wake from a boat can do as much damage as high winds. People could be mindful and respectful of the fact that their boat could potentially do damage to peoples’ property.”
The Municipality of Sioux Lookout shared in a May 19 Facebook post, “The Northwestern Health Unit would also like to remind those using wells for drinking water in the area that if your well has been flooded or compromised by the high water levels DO NOT assume it is safe for consumption. Take steps to protect your health and use bottled water for drinking or boil your well water before consumption to be safe.”
Unfortunately for area residents, it does not look like thing are going to improve quickly over the short term.
This from Matt DeWolfe, Executive Engineer of the Lake of The Woods Control Board (LWCB), which regulates the water levels of Lake of the Woods and Lac Seul.
In an email received on May 17, DeWolfe notes that Lac Seul is expected to keep rising at least through the end of May, for how long dependent on rainfall amounts. DeWolfe notes, “Dry weather is needed to see a return to normal levels. The forecast is not dry, and normal levels aren’t expected until at least mid-June.” As DeWolfe explained, “Water is flowing into the Sioux Lookout area along the English River faster than it can push down through the various pinch points in the channels connecting to Lac Seul. This is backing up the water at Hudson and areas upstream. Unfortunately, the only thing that will increase the flow through here is higher levels, which provide the pressure to move the water downstream.”
Another matter The Municipality of Sioux Lookout has advised of, “There has also been concern expressed about the appearance of fuel entering the water along Wellington Street. The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks has been in discussion with business owners in the area and is satisfied that the mitigation measures implemented by the business owners are appropriate and adequate, with no reason for concern at this time.”