Minden Hills still under water after two weeks — and may be for two more

Minden, Ont. resident Doug Ripley takes to his canoe as the rising waters from the nearby Gull River surround his home on Monday, April 22, 2013.
Minden, Ont. resident Doug Ripley takes to his canoe as the rising waters from the nearby Gull River surround his home on Monday, April 22, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Redman

Don Gage looks out his window. “Our dock is usually 100 feet from our front door; right now it’s at something like 30 feet.”

Gage lives on Shuyler Island in Minden Hills. It is one of several areas in Ontario that has seen severe flooding since April 20 when a state of emergency was declared. Some communities in Saskatchewan and Manitoba are also dealing with states of emergencies.

But what frustrates Don is how the situation was handled. “In terms of the township, they’ve done an excellent job of communicating the information they have,” said Don. “Our main issue is with Trent-Severn Waterway (TSW). Their communication has been sorely lacking.”

“There was one time when water was already quite high,” Don said. “Rumours were circulating that the TSW was going to remove a log [to lower the water levels]. But instead they put three logs in. That’s when the water started pouring over the the road…they didn’t tell us about that beforehand, nor did they tell the municipality.”
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Jewel Cunningham, the director of Ontario Waterways for Parks Canada, disagrees: “We’ve been in touch with emergency personnel in Minden. But we have found places where communication has broken down.”

The problems started on April 19th. According to Nancy Wright-Laking, CAO and Alternate Community Emergency Management Coordinator for the Village of Minden, that morning they received a flood advisory from the Ministry of Natural Resources. By noon, she noticed that the water had already risen on Anson Street in the village. Two days later the road would be impassable.

Fortunately for Don, who runs the Shuyler Island neighbourhood watch, Reeve Barb Reid contacted him to inform him of the ministry’s advisory. By April 21, the only road connecting the island with the mainland was blocked. Don and his wife Marie, managed to get one of their two cars across. Someone let them leave it there. Now the only way to get back and forth is by boat. “It’s an exhausting way to do grocery shopping,” says Marie.

At a community information forum held at the Minden Hills Community Centre on Monday, Cunningham was on hand to explain why the TSW chose to flood the area.

“Minden had been in danger of losing public utilities,” Cunningham said.

Although he understands the reasoning, Don wishes there had been some communication about it to the residents. He was particularly concerned about rumours that another log was going to be added. “We tried for 12 hours to get hold of someone,” Don said.

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Never receiving an answer, Don decided to call in electrician — who he had to get by boat — to raise his generator. In the end it did end up being just a rumour. “A waste of money,” Don said.

“We’re thankful that we have our home,” said Marie. “My heart goes out to those who have been affected. We’re only being inconvenienced.”

The Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Plan (ORDAP) provides relief only to permanent residents; residents and cottagers of Minden Hills will have to contact their insurance providers.

After a state of emergency is declared, residents have two weeks to report damage to the Ministry of Housing and Municipal Affairs. However it may take an additional two weeks for the waters to recede. Minden Hills has asked the Ministry to extend the deadline.

For Marie, she believes that going forward, things need to change. When the TSW was asked at the meeting why they didn’t tell residents more about the flood situation, the TSW’s response was that “they work with other organizations to communicate,” Marie said. “They did recognize that that needs to change,” she added.

Cunningham said, “We’ve agreed to work with the community of Minden to do a debrief as to how the past two weeks have unfolded. We’re open to find out how we can do things better.”


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