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Mother nature and massive snowpack caused 2019 Ottawa flooding, not human error: report.
An independent review of flooding and flood management in 2019 in Ontario found human error or negligent dam management were not to blame for the record-setting flooding.
According to the report released on Thursday, the historic 2019 flooding in Ontario was caused by a combination of weather conditions, including a colder-than-average winter and spring, higher-than-average snowpack, significant winter thaw, rapid snow melt and significant rain in the spring.
At the time of the flooding, there were widespread pictures of dry dam areas near Pembroke, with many suggesting dam mis-mangement played a role in the floods.
This report dismisses those criticisms.
"Based on an analysis of the information available for all of the systems that experienced flooding in 2019, nothing points to human error or the negligent operation of water control structures as the cause of the flooding" wrote Doug McNeil, the province's Special Advisor on flooding. "The sheer amount of water (snow and rainfall) on the landscape directly contributed to the flooding", he wrote.
In July, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakubuski appointed McNeil and put him in charge of conducting an independent review on the 2019 flooding.
“A cold and snowy winter, followed by abnormally high rainfall caused catastrophic flooding in many parts of the province”, said Yakabuski in a press conference at Queen's Park Thursday morning.
The report also concluded the 2017 flooding was caused by massive amounts of rain, with two months of rainfall in a seven day period between April 30 and May 6, 2017.
"The snow on the ground as of April 1, 2019, was significantly higher than normal and higher than experienced in 2017 and 2018. Snow surveys showed the upper portion of the basin had 150 to 188% of the normal Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) for that time of year", McNeil wrote.
The report puts forth 66 recommendations to improve the province’s resiliency to flooding, including changing the floodplain mapping.
The province says it will review the recommendations, but it is not committing to more funding right now.
“We have to talk about those things,” Yakabuski said at a news conference in Toronto, “We will consider all the recommendations and have talks at all ministry levels and all government levels as well.”
Just like the flood waters that washed through his ward, Ottawa Councillor Eli El-Chantiry didn't hold back on his thoughts about the special advisor's report on flooding.
“It is appalling to say the least,” El-Chantiry said, “You hire someone for $60,000 to give a report on for flood mitigation,not to tell us what happened. So mitigation for government is to protect their ass but not to residents to protect their property.”
More than 11-hundred homes in Ottawa were damaged by flood waters this spring, the second time in three years. Some residents are still out of their homes months later.
The report leaves flood victims like Ian Glen wondering just what the purpose was of this report and what residents are supposed to do when the inevitable “next time” happens.
“It's terrible to be in position you don't trust the outcome of these things but we don't trust the outcome of these things,” says Glen.
It didn't go unnoticed that the Minister wouldn't talk about climate change, only that this flooding was caused by "extreme weather events." Earlier this year, the Progressive Conservative government cut conservation authorities' funding for flood management in half.
-With files from The Canadian Press and Joanne Schnurr