Study to build more knowl­edge of Ex­ploits River

Bad­ger woman hope­ful govt. fund­ing will lead to bet­ter flood fore­casts

The Central Voice - - Front Page - KYLE GREENHAM

Colleen Paul’s fam­ily has lived along the Ex­ploits River for gen­er­a­tions. She says for as long as she can she re­mem­ber, flood­ing has al­ways been a risk for those who made their home along this wa­ter­way.

Now that the provin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ment have in­vested nearly $2 mil­lion for new flood risk map­ping pro­jects, Paul is hope­ful this money will bet­ter pro­tect the res­i­dents in Bad­ger and other com­mu­ni­ties around the Ex­ploits.

“Since ear­li­est times the indige­nous peo­ple in our com­mu­nity have lived along the river in Bad­ger and we’ve con­tin­ued to oc­cupy it,” she said. “I hope this fund­ing will help us fore­cast and an­tic­i­pate when the river will be prob­lem­atic. Flood fore­cast­ing, emer­gency re­sponse and pub­lic com­mu­ni­ca­tion, these are all great tools for be­ing bet­ter pre­pared for flood dis­as­ters.”

The fund­ing, an­nounced Nov. 14, is for flood risk pro­jects along the Ex­ploits and Hum­ber rivers, as well one project fo­cus­ing on mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter sup­ply dams.

A cru­cial need

Paul is the Vice Pres­i­dent of Na’taqam­tug (mean­ing “At the River­bank”) Cul­tural Group of Bad­ger and a client ser­vice of­fi­cer with the Qalipu First Na­tion. She says the flood­ing she ex­pe­ri­enced in her child­hood was much dif­fer­ent than the in­creas­ingly dan­ger­ous flood­ing she has wit­nessed in re­cent years. The flood of Bad­ger in 2003 that re­sulted in ex­ten­sive dam­age, an evac­u­a­tion, and the loss of her mother’s home, par­tic­u­larly stands out.

“Flood­ing of the river was al­most an an­nual event. My an­ces­tors knew the river well and they knew when it was about to awaken, that’s what hap­pened when you set­tled on a flood plain,” Paul said. “I re­mem­ber my fa­ther would walk into the house in the mid­dle of night and calmly tell my mother to gather the chil­dren and some clothes and we would go to our cousin’s house . . . . on a much higher level.

“As a child there was no panic in that, but it seems from year to year flood­ing is be­com­ing more of a dis­as­ter than a nat­u­ral oc­cur­rence. As the devel­op­ment of the flood plain has in­creased, the dam­age has also in­creased.”

In an emailed re­sponse, the Dept. of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs and En­vi­ron­ment says this new Ex­ploits River Com­mu­ni­ties Cli­mate Change Flood Risk Map­ping Study will in­cor­po­rate sev­eral ini­tia­tives.

Li­dar and ae­rial pho­tog­ra­phy will be col­lected, river cross-sec­tions will be sur­veyed, and up­dates will be made to the Bad­ger Ice Pro­gres­sion Flood Warn­ing Model by in­cor­po­rat­ing the lat­est data on flood lev­els and radar im­ages of ice along the Ex­ploits.

This model has not been up­dated since 1995.

“The maps will be cru­cial for mu­nic­i­pal and emer­gency plan­ning,” the email stated. “[The stud­ies] will in­clude an ex­ten­sive in­fra­struc­ture as­sess­ment of all bridges and cul­verts in the flood plains to see which are most vul­ner­a­ble to flood­ing.”

Sue Ziegler, Me­mo­rial Univer­sity pro­fes­sor with the Dept. of Earth Sciences, is cur­rently study­ing aquatic and ter­res­trial ecosys­tems around the north­west At­lantic, and how cli­mate change is af­fect­ing rivers of the prov­ince is a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of her re­search.

She says there are changes in flood pat­terns be­ing noted in rivers across the globe, and this fund­ing is cru­cial to bet­ter pro­tect­ing res­i­dents and the en­vi­ron­ment.

“Things are chang­ing all over the world. What was once 100-year flood pat­terns are be­com­ing 10-year floods be­cause the fre­quency of see­ing these size­able floods is in­creas­ing,” Ziegler said. “In places like New­found­land you’ve got ice too, which gives a whole dif­fer­ent dy­namic.

“These cli­mate change stud­ies are ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial for the vi­a­bil­ity of these com­mu­ni­ties.”

Re­al­iz­ing the dan­gers

The flood risks in Bad­ger largely oc­cur in the spring when the ice thaws. Ar­eas like Buchans and Miller­town have also been af­fected by in­creas­ing flood dam­age from Red In­dian Lake, which the Ex­ploits River flows out of.

Be­cause of where they are si­t­u­ated near the Ex­ploits, some com­mu­ni­ties like Botwood or Nor­ris Arm are not as prone to the threat of flood­ing. But Nor­ris Arm Mayor Ross Rowsell says the nearby com­mu­nity of Sandy Point has a higher like­li­hood of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing floods.

“A lot of the houses in that com­mu­nity are very close to the river­side,” Rowsell said.

New­found­land and Labrador Hy­dro, which op­er­ates hy­dro dams and gen­er­at­ing sta­tions along the Ex­ploits River, said in an emailed re­sponse that the com­pany will be pro­vid­ing site ac­cess and safety sup­port dur­ing the map­ping project and is pleased to as­sist fur­ther if needed.

The Dept. of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs and En­vi­ron­ment ex­pects the project to be com­pleted by March 2020.

As this fund­ing moves into im­ple­men­ta­tion, Paul feels it’s im­por­tant to rec­og­nize this type of project can bet­ter pro­tect the area and its res­i­dents, but it can­not pre­vent the flood­ing it­self.

“We have to step back and re­al­ize the im­pacts cli­mate change and eco­nomic devel­op­ment are hav­ing on our en­vi­ron­ment. The events are go­ing to be­come more and more dis­as­trous as these decades go on,” she said.

“Flood fore­cast­ing will im­prove with this an­nounce­ment and these are all pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions, but that river will still do what that river wants to do. It al­ways has.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Colleen Paul is the Vice Pres­i­dent of Na’taqam­tug (mean­ing “At the River­bank”) Cul­tural Group of Bad­ger and a client ser­vice of­fi­cer with the Qalipu First Na­tion. Her fam­ily has lived along the flood­plains of the Ex­ploits River in Bad­ger for gen­er­a­tions.

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