Lake levels falling — but damage costs rising
City gets bad news that rain and flood fixes could top $7 million, including relief claims
Record Lake Ontario water levels are slowly falling — but the bill to repair associated flood and shoreline damage in Hamilton is going up.
A new update emailed to city councillors estimates the cost of “known remedial actions” for flood and rain-damaged city infrastructure at between $4.5 million and $6.8 million.
But that does not include the cost of long-term work on the saturated escarpment Rail Trail, or the final bill to replace eroded sections of the Waterfront Trail between Princess Point and Bayfront Park — parts of which remain underwater.
The lake hit a historical highwater mark of 75.88 metres above sea level in May — more than a metre above the average level last year. The rising, storm-lashed waters flooded low-lying lakeside homes, devoured beaches and took a bite out of popular shoreline trails.
At the same time, Hamilton was inundated with May rain that caused Spencer Creek to overflow, undermined roadways and contributed to mud and rock slides on the Kenilworth and Sherman Access roads.
Lake levels have since fallen about 11 centimetres since the May peak, in part due to increased outflow into the St. Lawrence River recently approved by the international body that controls water levels on the Great Lakes.
Even still, the water remains too high for a city-hired specialist to determine the extent of the damage to flooded sections of the popular harbourfront trail, according to the memo from public works head Dan McKinnon.
The trail has been closed since late April and will stay that way “for the foreseeable future,” McKinnon said. Repair costs won’t be known until a damage study and remediation plan is finished. But staff expect the total to exceed $1 million.
Temporary repairs to minor collapses on the Rail Trail, meanwhile, have allowed the popular walking and cycling path to reopen. But experts continue to drill bore holes to test for underlying “instability,” meaning the jury is still out on the extent — and cost — of eventual long-term repairs.
Other weather-related challenges include a near-double the average daily flows of sewage and storm water through the city’s treatment plant. There’s also delays and increased costs for a project meant to stabilize the eroding banks of Chedoke Creek alongside Hwy. 403, and at one of the city’s oldest landfills.
The city could also end up handing out hundreds of thousands of dollars in “disaster” relief grants to citizens flooded by a series of storms and heavy rains in April and May. By mid-May, more than 260 people had submitted applications under the city’s compassionate grant program, which provides up to $1,000 to cover flood damage not covered by insurance.
The city has inquired about the possibility of provincial disaster assistance to help with the growing cost of infrastructure repair, but so far it doesn’t look like Hamilton is eligible, said McKinnon.
He said the city expects to apply for future provincial help on flood prevention projects once it finishes an ongoing flooding and drainage master plan study.
Ottawa said in May it wanted to focus some of its promised new infrastructure funding on municipal flood mitigation. Federal, provincial and municipal governments recently announced a $1.2 billion flood-protection makeover for Toronto’s port lands.