‘I can al­most cry when I looks out the win­dow’

Town keep­ing close eye on Hum­ber River ero­sion, mit­i­ga­tion work planned for sum­mer

The Western Star - - CLOSE TO HOME - DEREK MON­TAGUE

DEER LAKE, NL – Jane Janes hates look­ing out the win­dow of the home she has lived in all her life.

The 77-year-old res­i­dent of Pine Tree Drive has owned the land nes­tled be­side the Hum­ber River for the past 59 years with her hus­band.

“The land that lined the river was right full of trees, but now we can look right across the river, which we couldn’t do be­fore,” said Janes.

“And it re­ally looks re­ally bare; I can al­most cry when I looks out the win­dow.”

The birch trees were lost as part of the ero­sion along the edge of her prop­erty that backs onto the Hum­ber River.

She’s not alone. The Pine Tree Drive neigh­bour­hood has been af­fected by rapid ero­sion since Jan­uary 2018, when heavy rain fol­lowed by warm weather cre­ated flood­wa­ter and caused pack ice to flow down­stream.

She be­lieves her prop­erty is safe from fur­ther dam­age this spring.

“The ice is gone out of the river and I don’t think we’re go­ing to have much dam­age, be­cause if the big sheets (of ice) don’t come down, we don’t lose much land,” said Janes.

There’s no dan­ger of homes tum­bling into the Hum­ber River - yet. Prop­er­ties af­fected by ero­sion along the river are be­ing closely mon­i­tored by res­i­dents and town staff, says Deer Lake Mayor Dean Ball.

“I don’t think there is any im­me­di­ate dan­ger to any­body’s res­i­dence,” Ball said. “There are per­sonal prop­er­ties that are af­fected…there are a cou­ple wood­sheds that are close.”

The town re­mains in frequent com­mu­ni­ca­tions with area res­i­dents, he added.

“We’ve had a con­ver­sa­tion with some of the res­i­dents there, and they are also watch­ing it and keep­ing us in the loop. If they see some­thing, they would no­tify us right away,” said Ball.

Ball said the spring run-off in April has caused some more land to erode.

“Now that the spring run-off is hap­pen­ing…there is some more prop­erty lost into the river with the ice break up. And we were an­tic­i­pat­ing that. Our staff is (mon­i­tor­ing) that on a daily ba­sis,” said Ball.

On top of the pri­vate prop­er­ties in dan­ger, the ero­sion could also im­pact wa­ter and sewer in­fra­struc­ture owned by the town.

De­spite the threat to their prop­er­ties, as of early April, res­i­dents of Pine Tree Drive have not left their homes.

MIT­I­GA­TION EF­FORTS PLANNED

The Town of Deer Lake is plan­ning to re­in­force the river bank with heavy stones to mit­i­gate the ero­sion, but that plan can’t be put into ef­fect un­til wa­ter lev­els have low­ered.

“There’s go­ing to be…some re­in­state­ment done there this year. But un­for­tu­nately, that work can’t start un­til your wa­ter lev­els are at its low­est - that prob­a­bly won’t be un­til late June or July some­time,” Ball said.

The rock idea, how­ever, is not a plan sup­ported by Janes.

“I just hope they don’t put those ugly ol’ rocks over the bank and nobody can get down to the shore,” she said. “That’s what I’m afraid of…we can al­ways plant trees, but if they want to put them rocks there, it’s use­less.”

No con­tracts have been awarded yet for the work, so Ball could only guess at how much it will cost to re­in­force the river bank near Pine Tree Drive. He be­lieves the price tag will be at least a mil­lion dol­lars. Given the high ex­pense, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity has been in talks with the fed­eral and pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ments on fund­ing sce­nar­ios.

“They’ve been a part of this all the way through, with the fed­eral dis­as­ter fund­ing as well,” said Ball.

The Deer Lake mayor pointed out, how­ever, that there’s no guarantee the plan will solve the ero­sion prob­lem en­tirely. With chang­ing weather pat­terns and other fac­tors, river ero­sion is hard to pre­dict, even with mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures in place.

“There’s nobody go­ing to say that this will be a per­ma­nent fix,” said Ball. “It’s un­for­tu­nate; we would like to think it is, but I wouldn’t want to give any­body false hope and say this is go­ing to be a per­ma­nent fix.”

CON­TRIB­UTED

The ex­tent of ero­sion of the Hum­ber River’s banks along Pine Tree Drive in Deer Lake.

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