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Concern growing in Ile-Bizard about flood preparedness as spring approaches

Île Bizard residents worry they aren’t ready for more spring floods
WATCH: Île Bizard residents worry they aren't ready for more spring floods

Spring is just around the corner, and for many, that means possible spring flooding. In Ile-Bizard, tension is already rising. 

Genevieve Delisle’s home on Paquin Street is just steps from the river. She built a veritable sandbag fortress in 2019 but still got water in her basement. In 2017, she said she had over $40,000 worth of flood damage. She says being flooded in two of the past three years has had a profound effect on her.

After last year’s floods, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Even if I have everything, I need to face it, I’m not ready to face it again,” she said.

At the invitation of Global News, borough Mayor Normand Marinacci met with Delisle and her neighbour Gerald Chouinard on Saturday.

They were both full of questions for the mayor about flood prep. One of their top demands: that the city build a permanent dike to protect flood-stricken streets like Paquin, Roy and Jean-Yves.

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READ MORE: Pierrefonds wants ‘permanent’ flood solutions, demands help from Montreal, province

“Yes, definitely. That would help not just for the water, but for everybody’s mental safety,” said Delisle.

With the help of heavy snow blowers, a massive dike made of gravel and sandbags just steps from her home helped save the neighborhood from disaster in 2019. The blowers will not be back this year, according to Marinacci, who also wants to see a permanent dike built, and said he’s hired an engineer to look into the idea.

Marinacci told the residents and Global News, however, that it won’t happen in 2020. A permanent dike can’t be built without provincial approval.

“We need a derogation from the environment minister. We have to prove there’s no real consequences on the whole archipelago of Montreal,” the mayor said.

The Environment Ministry did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

“He said we’re waiting for the ministry, we’re waiting for them, we’re waiting. We need answers, and we need them yesterday!” exclaimed Delisle. “It’s taking forever.”

The borough intends to obtain more pumps to replace the snow blowers.

“I think we’re going to rent them,” said Marinacci.

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“Can we reserve them now?” Delisle said.

“That’s what we’re working on,” said the mayor.

Something else giving Delisle anxiety: Marinacci said Ile Bizard won’t be buying its own sandbags anymore. Instead, sandbag delivery will be centralized and dispensed by the City of Montreal.

READ MORE: Montreal calling on Quebec for funds to cover high cost of spring floods

“I find that quite ridiculous, to be honest,” Delisle told him, concerned the new model could mean sandbags arrive slower, which could be devastating when every minute counts.

“They think it’s better to gather all the sandbags at one place so we can deliver it fast. That’s what they say,” Marinacci explained, going on to guarantee there will be enough sandbags if needed in 2020.

He said the borough has added infrastructure to the sewer system to prevent backup, adding that he thinks the borough has done a good job protecting residents from flooding.

“All those streets were protected. We invested $3 million to protect them, how can they say they weren’t happy?” he said.

Marinacci is set to meet with a group of concerned citizens March 5 to discuss flood prep strategy. He said he’s had regular meetings with Quebec Civil Security authorities to plan for possible floods.

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