Volunteers needed as sandbag removal in Ottawa flood zones to begin June 1

As the Ottawa River spills over into Constance Bay and Fitzroy Harbour, volunteers and Canadian military members fill sandbags at Fitzroy Provincial Park on Monday, April 29, 2019. Crystal Oag / Global News

The City of Ottawa says it “urgently” needs volunteers to step forward over the next two weeks to help take down sandbags and remove debris in the areas hardest hit by this spring’s high waters.

Work will begin this weekend in flooded communities in West Carleton-March, Bay and Cumberland wards, the municipality said on Wednesday afternoon, as it put out a call for volunteers “of all abilities,” ages 12 and up.

WATCH (Apr. 27, 2019): Drone footage shows severity of flooding in Ottawa
Click to play video 'Drone footage shows severity of flooding in Ottawa' Drone footage shows severity of flooding in Ottawa
Drone footage shows severity of flooding in Ottawa – Apr 27, 2019

At last Wednesday’s city council meeting, city staff said they will need just as many volunteers to help with flood clean-up as they did when the sandbag walls went up. According to the municipality, nearly 15,000 residents helped with flood relief efforts between mid-April and early May, when the Ottawa River’s levels rose and remained dangerously high.

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“More than ever, if you’re a qualified volunteer, your help is needed,” Anthony Di Monte, general manager of emergency and protective services, said at Ottawa City Hall last week.

Ottawa remains in a state of emergency due to the flooding, declared on April 25 by Mayor Jim Watson.

READ MORE: What does it mean when a community is in a state of emergency?

After Ottawa city council voted unanimously last Wednesday to request an independent public inquiry or investigation by the provincial and federal governments into the cause of both the 2017 and 2019 floods, Watson sent off letters containing a formal request to Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday.

In his letter, the mayor urged the premier and the prime minister to “undertake a timely investigation.”

“As I am sure you can appreciate, many residents in the affected areas of Ottawa will be waiting for reliable information on the factors contributing to these flooding events, and the likelihood of reoccurrence, before making a decision on rebuilding their homes,” Watson wrote.

READ MORE: Ontario flood task force holds closed-door meeting; Ottawa mayor pushes for independent inquiry

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The mayor also pushed for an independent review during a closed-door meeting with municipal and provincial officials on Friday, organized by an internal task force on flooding recently launched by the Ontario government.

“There’s a lot of frustration by the public as to what’s actually gone wrong, or is there anything gone wrong, with the dam system. And I think to have an independent review of the whole process, that clears it up for everyone,” Watson told reporters on Friday.

What volunteers need to know

The City of Ottawa is only now, about seven weeks after its flood response kicked into high gear, shifting to full-on recovery work. The city had been waiting the past few weeks for water levels to recede further.

The municipality says sandbag and debris removal will take place on Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Individuals willing to help are asked to register at one of the following three volunteer registration centres between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on those days (organized groups are encouraged to call 3-1-1 ahead of time):

  • Fitzroy Harbour Community Centre, 100 Clifford Campbell Street
  • Constance and Buckham’s Bay Community Centre, 262 Len Purcell Lane
  • Ron Kolbus Centre, 102 Greenview Avenue

Shuttles will travel regularly between the Trim Road Park and Ride and Cumberland, and between the Innovation Park and Ride and Constance Bay, according to the city.

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WATCH (May 6, 2019): Ottawa continues to cope with devastating spring floods
Click to play video 'Ottawa continues to cope with devastating spring floods' Ottawa continues to cope with devastating spring floods
Ottawa continues to cope with devastating spring floods – May 6, 2019

The city recommends volunteers wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing with long sleeves, as well as pants and boots. It warned that clothes “may get  dirty, wet or damaged” during the recovery work.

City crews will supply gloves, water and snacks to volunteers.

Any volunteers under the age of 18 will need a parent or legal guardian to sign their registration form and must be supervised by an adult on site.