April 23, 2019 6:59 pm

Île Mercier residents refuse to leave their homes, even as island gets cut off

The bridge to Ile Mercier has been closed to traffic. Residents are staying on the island, sticking it out. Global's Dan Spector catches up with some of those homeowners.

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There are now just two ways to get on or off of Île Mercier.

The only bridge to the tiny island was closed off Monday to cars and pedestrians due to rising floodwaters. Front-end loaders are still allowed to drive across the bridge to deliver food and supplies. Other than that, residents of Mercier’s 65 homes have to be ferried across by boat.

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“We’ll have to install a dock with boats to transport people every day to do their things, and then come back at night,” explained Pier-Luc Cauchon, an island resident who has been leading relief efforts.

Olivier Ishii-Landry, a plumber who lives on the island, has also become a part-time ferry driver.

“I’m not getting enough sleep, but I have everything else, so I’m good,” said Ishii-Landry, who specializes in flood relief and has been helping to prepare residents for rising water.

“It’s going to be a long run, so you have to be sure you have everything in place to keep your morale high.”

Much of the the island is already underwater, and authorities expect water to rise even more.

“Ultimately it is up to the weather and we will see how it goes,” said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante on Tuesday.

Some driveways on Île Mercier now look more like boat launches, and waterfront back yards are now part of the river. In the middle of some residential streets, water is up to the knee or waist.

However, in the midst of it all, on Tuesday there was a sort of block party going on. After long hours of preparation and sandbagging, a group of Île Mercier residents kicked back and had a laugh.

“My house is safe with the sandbags,” explained David Dostie. “We’re waiting for the water.”

He explained how he has no intention of leaving, as his family moved to the island in 1952. Dostie has lived there since he was born in 1961.

READ MORE: Terrasse-Vaudreuil warning residents to stay vigilant with rain in forecast

“My father died in 1974 in the first flooding,” he said. “After that, I keep the house for my mom. I worked all my life for that house. I’m not going to leave. Never.”

Dostie’s 89-year-old mother is also staying on the island.

Denis Cauchon, another longtime resident, said after the historic 2017 floods, he had to demolish his home and completely rebuild it.

“If the water comes too high, I’ll take my boat and I’ll go. If I don’t have water in the house, I have no problem,” he explained.

His new house was built further inland, and with a flood-proof foundation.

“I spent all my money on that, so I want to keep it,” Cauchon told Global News.

All around the island, there is evidence of lessons learned from 2017. There are powerful pumps, impressive sandbag walls, and  the newest in anti-flood technology. Ishii-Landry installed preventive technology on many of the island’s homes.

“Some clients got the whole waterproof foundation installed, it starts with construction. There are french drains and pumping stations,” he said.

READ MORE: Quebec, Montreal examining strategies to reduce flooding damage

Not everyone on the island is so relaxed.

“The anxiety hasn’t stopped,” said Sonia Brown, who is staying at her home to make sure all her pumps keep working while her husband is at work. “It’s been going on since 2017. I would never have expected that in 2019.  I wouldn’t expect it this fast.”

Brown has an infant daughter who’s now staying with family off the island.

“How many times can you live through this anxiety? I don’t sleep, I’m not eating. Like psychologically, how am I supposed to stay here with small children?” she contemplated.

Ile Mercier residents hope that as the waters rise, the flood-battling tech and community spirit keep them dry.

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