Tempers boil at flood forum | Local | News | Minden Times
Much of Minden may still be under water, but it was fiery inside the Minden Hills Community Centre on Monday night.
More than 200 residents packed the facility for a public forum on the ongoing flooding of the community.
From the moment Reeve Barb Reid introduced Jewel Cunningham, director of Ontario Waterways for Parks Canada, attendees began yelling out frustrated comments and questions.
The TSW has been holding vast amounts of water in the reservoir lakes north of Minden in an attempt to mitigate the severe flooding of the Gull River that began April 19.
Many Minden residents have been displaced, their streets impassable by vehicle. Some have been getting to and from their homes by boat. The downtown has been barricaded to traffic and will likely remain that way for some time.
Youre not an easy crowd to stand in front of, Cunningham told a sea of red, exasperated, angry faces. Ill try to be honest and frank about what weve done to date.
Residents starting yelling from the audience, with Reid moving in, asking for respect while Cunningham said her piece.
Cunningham said it was a rain event during April 18 and 19, timed with the spring thaw that had created the situation.
It was a circumstance that was very unique, she said.
The worst part of the storm hit the Kennisis Lake area, dumping some 75 mm or rain in a 24-hour period.
Residents started yelling that the spring had not been exceptional in any way.
One woman became so emotional she stormed out of the building.
Cunningham said the TSW has received complaints about how long the process is taking, but explained that accelerating the water flow could cause more damage.
It is going to take some time for water to leave the system, she said.
According to Cunningham and Dave Ness, water control engineer for the TSW, it could take up to two weeks to see significant change.
Its going to be a long, drawn-out peak, Ness told the room, adding the two-week period came with the caveat of no more surprises from Mother Nature.
There have been rumours in the community the TSW was keeping water levels on certain lakes higher than usual this winter, in an attempt to better deal with dry conditions in late summer.
According to Cunningham, we were still, before the rain event, no higher than years past. Weve had studies tell us we need to start filling earlier, but that has not been a factor at this point.
Tom Prentice Jr. wanted to know why local lakes that were not part of the TSW, South Lake, for example, were not flooded.
I dont have a perfectly clear explanation for you, Ness said.
One woman asked Cunningham if the TSW was going to take public responsibility for the flooding.
No, we are not, she said. Its not in our ability to mitigate flooding.
Attendees expressed discontent at the lack of communication between the TSW and the public.
We had no warning, said one man whod evacuated his home. Probably about two hours to get out.
Cunningham said the situation had arisen very quickly.
One man yelled out that if the water was so difficult to control, how was it in August the TSW was able to drop levels by five or six feet within days.
Answer the question! another exclaimed.
Because you never see flows like that in August, ever, Ness said.
Were feeding the Trent [canal] so all the rich people can take their boats through the Trent, said one woman.
Another attendee asked if the situation stemmed from the dozens of layoffs that happened at Parks Canada and the TSW as part of the last federal budget.
I can say, unequivocally, the situation was not related, Cunningham responded.
One woman told Cunningham shed lived on the river for 65 years.
It hasnt changed, she said. Why cant you get it together? Ive lived on the river all my life.
Minden Hills chief administrative officer Nancy Wright-Laking fielded questions about local fundraising for the private component of the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program.
It offers up to 90 per cent coverage of destruction of essential property for primary residences and the province will match funds raised by the township up to a ratio of two to one.
When the township makes its application to the program, it must provide a preliminary estimate of damages and Wright-Laking said it was important for flood victims to give the township a good idea of the damage to their properties.
Its been difficult for us to assess . . . because we really cant get down the roads, she said.
Its not our fault, its theirs! one man yelled.
Im going to sue! yelled another.
One resident told Wright-Laking he was not able to do his income tax, since his documents were in his home, which he couldnt access.
Wright-Laking said shed contact Revenue Canada.
I cant guarantee Ill be very effective, but Ill do that for you, she said.
MP Barry Devolin was also in attendance.
Devolin has been under scrutiny in the community for taking a week to come to Minden after Reid declared a state of emergency on April 20.
Devolin said hell be looking into exceptions for residents with Revenue Canada and added that the Haliburton County Development Corporation, which is funded by the federal government, has developed a specialized loan program for businesses affected by the flood that will offer zero-interest loans of up to $25,000 for five years.
Devolin said he was also looking into how downtown businesses might be compensated for lost revenue.
The MP acknowledged the communication between the federal government and its agencies and the public has been poor.
The communication to this point hasnt been great and Im part of that, too, Devolin said. So, Im not pointing my fingers at others.
Prentice told Devolin he needed to stop telling people the flood was due to rain and that it was obvious there was some degree of human error.
Those questions are being asked and we need answers, Devolin said. Absolutely, there needs to be an investigation into how the system works.
Algonquin Highlands Reeve and County Warden Carol Moffatt has confirmed there will be a meeting between the countys four reeves, Devolin and MPP Laurie Scott to investigate the situation.
A number of attendees expressed displeasure that community members had to fundraise to help themselves in the wake of what they consider a government screw-up.
Where are we going to get that kind of money? one man asked. People here have never had it in the first place.
One woman told Devolin the situation was shameful.
Somebody has to take responsibility, she said. Youre asking people whove lost their houses . . . they have nothing and youre asking them to fundraise.
She lamented there was talk of risk, but no talk of risk management, and no flood planning for Minden, something which she suggested should perhaps even be taught in the local school.
Reid, whod requested from the province and was denied an extension on the townships May 9 application deadline for the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Plan, told Devolin the township is going to need more assistance from the federal government.
The township is making a formal request for an extension.
We are going to be needing your help in speaking to the government in getting something over and above [whats being offered], Reid said.
The reeve said residents couldnt wait eight months or a year to get money from ODRAP.
Thats what keeps me up at night, she said. Its not going to meet our needs in the here and now.
Scott was not at Mondays meeting, but did tour Minden and area last Wednesday.
Barbara Walford-Davis of the Minden Food Bank said the food bank located near Rx Pharmacy on Bobcaygeon Road is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. offering food, blankets, clothing and other items.