Rainfall damage will cost millions to fix, city told
Hamilton’s record rainy spell will soak taxpayers for millions of dollars in road, trail and basement repairs this year.
More than 170 mm of relentless rain in April and early May — combined with the highest Lake Ontario water levels in a century — have so far spurred escarpment mudslides, washed-out roads, flooded basements and eroded trails from one end of Hamilton to the other.
The soggy sucker punch has already helped wipe out the city’s annual escarpment maintenance budget of $450,000 and is forcing contracted vacuum trucks to continually suck water out of low-lying beach strip streets.
But taxpayers should brace for a final rainy repair tally “in the millions,” warned public works head Dan McKinnon. “I would guess it would be under $5 million, but it will likely be in the millions,” said McKinnon, who is compiling a list of short
and long-term repair projects expected as a result of the water damage to city infrastructure.
“It’s really the price of dealing with an extraordinarily wet spring. The rain has been so steady, for such a long period of time, that we’re seeing unprecedented damage.”
That damage includes hundreds of metres of drowned beaches and eroded trails through Hamilton that may be too dangerous to use for the foreseeable future, said parks head Kara Bunn.
“We’ve basically lost our beaches for the time being,” she added. “This sort of damage all at once is unprecedented.”
Parts of the city’s three most popular trails are closed for safety reasons, including the rail trail near the Kenilworth Stairs, the harbourfront path between Bayfront Park and Princess Point and the lakefront trail near Confederation Park.
Bunn said parts of the three-kilometre section of harbour-hugging trail are underwater and “quite possibly badly eroded,” meaning even after the water recedes, the city will need to rebuild and “stabilize” the path before its safe to use again.
Engineers are also studying a partially collapsed portion of the escarpment rail trail.
Near Confederation Park, fierce wave action has taken a literal bite out of the soil near the trail, creating a cliff about a metre high.
Bunn said that trail is owned by the city but managed by the Hamilton Conservation Authority, so the two agencies would work together to cost out a solution.
The city is also tallying the damage to roads and Mountain accesses.
Technical operations head Brian Hughes said it will likely cost around $300,000 to fix a section of York Road near Dundas overwhelmed by high creek water and a damaged culvert two weeks ago.
Dealing with the Kenilworth Access mudslide, a nearby “precariously perched boulder” and several washed-out areas of the Sherman Access roadside will also cost the city.
Beach strip residents have also complained about shoreline erosion up and down the Lake Ontario sandbar, but it’s unclear what, if any work the city will need to do in response.
The city is offering flooded city residents the chance to apply for compassionate grants of up to $1,000 if they ended up with wet basements between April 20 and May 6.
McKinnon expects to send a ballpark tally of the damages and longterm fixes to councillors later this week.
… We’re seeing unprecedented damage. DAN MCKINNON PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT
The parking lot at Leander Boat Club on the harbour remains almost completely under water. Lake Ontario levels are high and may rise a little yet, as river courses around the Great Lakes continue to empty.
In late April, a heavy downpour caused a creek that runs through Dundas to clog and cause flooding.