Lake levels fall­ing — but dam­age costs ris­ing

City gets bad news that rain and flood fixes could top $7 mil­lion, in­clud­ing re­lief claims

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - MATTHEW VAN DONGEN

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.

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