Wolfe Island sits right where Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River merge, and two out of the last three years flooding has been an issue.
Flooding has been a problem for many communities in the region, but Wolfe Island residents are starting to organize.
Judy Greenwood-Speers is one of the island residents leading that charge. She says more than 20 people showed up at a meeting last week, which she considers a good start.
“I only gave four days’ notice,” Greenwood-Speers said. “The date was selected because I could get a company that had a product to come up for free for our meeting.”
Greenwood-Speers says that company was Quebec based MegaSecur, which specializes in issues like flooding and containing spills.
Tony Miller, who lives in Marysville on Wolfe Island and attended the meeting, says he met with the MegaSecur representatives and they assessed his house and property, which sits on the island’s shoreline.
Miller says he spent days manning and running a generator pumping water out of his basement preventing damage to his house. MegaSecur’s deployable dam has potential, Miller adds, but he was also dealing with water flowing into his house through his well system.
“We’re trying to decide now, do we spend that kind of money, again with not knowing if we put the dam up will we end up with infiltration through the ground anyway?”
Greenwood-Speers says this is part of the learning process many island residents are going through.
Different properties will require a range of solutions and Miller says the community group will benefit island residents and other communities along the waterway as well.
“We need to pool all of our resources and figure out how to properly deal with this situation.”
Greenwood-Speers says an organizing meeting is taking place this Thursday. She says she has started some of the outreach already, having already had communication with the International Joint Commission, which regulates water levels on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.
“They have put me in contact with an engineer in Cornwall as well as another two, one from Ogdensburg and one from Cape Vincent.”
The Insurance Bureau of Canada has also been contacted by Greenwood-Speers, which she says was a suggestion from last week’s meeting.
“Somebody said we need to get insurance engaged in helping us prepare for the floods, instead of just repairing it.”
The budding new group also has its eyes on all three levels of government.
Greenwood-Speers says addressing climate change is going to need big solutions and a big financial commitment.
One of the more immediate things Greenwood-Speers says the provincial government can do is bring back the Shorelines Protection Act.
Greenwood-Speers says it was cancelled in 2010 by the Liberal government of the day.
“It would have helped with raising homes, moving homes, repairing buildings. This act needs to be resurrected in a fast fashion.”
Greenwood-Speers says water diversion, dams and marshland rehabilitation should all be considered in a coordinated plan to deal with flooding.
The community group is in this for the long haul and won’t be satisfied with lip service from the three levels of government, she says.
“This community group, because it’s a community group and not a government, we don’t have to follow your rules of engagement — we will be noisy.”
Greenwood-Speers says they plan to share information as they get it and hope to network with other community groups.