West Island Flood 2017 – Don’t build on wetlands seeing recent damage
West Island Flood 2017 – The recent West Island Flood 2017 on the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers are among the highest to ever strike Montreal with the crest apparently exceeding the 100-year flood line by 25cm or so. The Montreal Times newspaper published dramatic photos taken during the West Island Flood 2017, in Pierrefonds among other areas. Beyond all the drama is anguish and suffering caused by the floods, we have to look ahead to reduce or prevent future flood damage. Most importantly, this means NOT building on floodplains or in wetlands.
Our government officials, unfortunately, are doing the opposite. Between early 2013 and late 2014, the Quebec Environment Ministry issued 153 permits to build on floodplains or in wetlands near Montreal according to CBC. Is this shortsightedness, corruption, or both? That CBC article describes the Ministry as “a machine to authorize the destruction of wetlands.” And municipal governments are no better….
Pierrefonds was struck by heavy flooding before, notably in 1971. That is when the land where the borough hall now sits went underwater. Perhaps memories are short, but municipal officials subsequently decided to build the Pierrefonds borough hall on that same low-lying land prone to flooding.
Today, a controversial 5,500 home development is planned on wet meadows in Pierrefonds. Much of this area has marsh vegetation growing on it. Critics say that nothing should be built here, at least not until flood maps of the area are redrawn with data from the latest flood. Ironically, public hearings into the proposed development had to be canceled when Pierrefonds borough hall—where hearings were scheduled–was flooded.
Important access roads into the Cap Nature proposed development were either partially (Gouin Blvd) or completely underwater (L’Anse à l’Orme Rd). While vehicular travel was still possible via circuitous detours, this is probably unsafe in the eyes of our first responders (firefighters, ambulance, etc). Is this really where Montreal wants to add thousands of new homes, perhaps putting 10,000 additional cars on the road?
There are other reasons not to build on wet meadows; this land is like a sponge, helping to absorb water during heavy rains and mitigating flood damage elsewhere. If this land is built on, all that much more water will run off into the Ottawa River, probably flooding somebody’s basement downstream. The wet meadows also filter the water, helping ensure that Cap St. Jacques Beach is clean enough to swim at. Rare wildlife depends on the habitat here, including an endangered bobolink seen here recently by this reporter.
Meanwhile, the site where developers want to build the Pine Beach project in Hudson was up to deep underwater this month. It will be a wonder if anyone buying homes there can get insurance…
Building on high ground saves on all the drama and anguish of seeing homes flooded. There are many, many places to put new residential developments around Montreal without building on wetlands. There is no lack of “brownfields” or abandoned industrial sites that can be built on such as with the Angus Yards or in Lachine East. Homes can be built on top of commercial centres along St. Charles Blvd in Pierrefonds. This gives the added advantages of building close to stores and public transit. And the cost to the taxpayer is less because no new roads or infrastructure are needed.
Once the flood waters have subsided and the cleanup is finished, let us all hope that our political leaders do the right to keep the population high and dry during the next flood.
All Photos: Kieron Yates – mtltimes.ca
Video – Daniel M.