After more than two weeks of battling the swollen Ottawa River, residents affected by this spring’s floods in Ottawa and three neighbouring municipalities and townships to the east can now apply for financial support through the province’s disaster recovery assistance program, the Ontario government announced on Tuesday.
The program is designed to help eligible residents cover “emergency expenses and the costs to repair or replace essential property following a disaster” that aren’t covered by an insurance policy for a primary residence or a small business, farm or not-for-profit organization.
As of Tuesday, the relief program has been activated for flood zones in the City of Ottawa, the City of Clarence-Rockland, the Township of Champlain and the Township of Alfred and Plantagenet, according to a news release. Residents in these four areas can apply for support through the program until Sept. 4.
“We will continue working closely with our municipal partners to help keep everyone safe and provide the resources needed,” Steve Clark, minister of municipal affairs and housing, said in the statement. “I applaud the bravery of all the volunteers, military personnel, municipal staff, first responders and others on the ground who have been supporting those impacted by flooding.”
The snowmelt this spring, coupled with several hits of heavy rainfall, caused the Ottawa River to bloat and spill over into many communities bordering the river between Petawawa and Hawkesbury.
Ottawa, Clarence-Rockland, Alfred and Plantagenet and several townships in the Upper Ottawa Valley all declared states of emergency due to the flooding. The disaster assistance program had already been activated for flooded parts of Renfrew County, west of the national capital.
In Ottawa, three areas of the city — West Carleton, Britannia and Cumberland — were badly affected. According to the municipality, 155 households, most of them in Constance Bay, voluntarily evacuated as the water rose to dangerous levels.
Over the last few weeks, the Ottawa River, in most areas, reached levels near or above the peak of the floods in 2017; in a handful of areas, the river reached historic heights.
Outside of the Ottawa region, a number of other communities in Ontario have also been devastated by this spring’s floods. The government said it continues to assess flood damage around the national capital and across the province and expects “further disaster assistance activations … in the coming days and weeks.”
Electrical Safety Authority waives reconnection fees for flood-impacted residents
In a separate release on Tuesday, the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) — a not-for-profit corporation and regulator mandated by the Ontario government — also announced it is immediately waiving reconnection fees for all Ontario residents in flood-damaged areas who need their electricity restored.
Provincial minister Merrilee Fullerton, the MPP for the flood-impacted areas in Ottawa’s west end, said hundreds of home in her riding had their power cut as waters rose and she began hearing complaints about the ESA fees on Thursday last week. She and the city councillor for West Carleton-March both requested that the fees — which they say can total up to $390 — be waived.
“I’m just very, very relieved that this has come through for people,” Fullerton said during a phone interview. “I know people really are hard hit. … Anything like this will help.”
Residents who have already paid a reconnection fee are advised to contact the ESA’s customer service centre, which will refund them in full, the ESA said.
River levels in Ottawa expected to rise again, but not exceed peak
While flood levels around Ottawa and downstream from the national capital began dropping late last week, the river is expected to remain high for about two weeks and many communities remain under a flood watch.
Tuesday’s news from the province comes as the Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board expects water levels from Arnprior to Ottawa to rise once again due to forecasts of rain later this week.
But river levels in those areas “should not exceed the initial peaks observed last week,” the river board wrote in its latest forecast published at 5 p.m. on Monday.
Up to 25 millimetres of rain is expected to fall over much of the Ottawa River watershed starting on Thursday, according to the river board.