Some in Montreal worry about possibility of spring floods, officials say they’re ready

Ile-Bizard resident Genevieve Delisle checks water levels near her home daily. March 23, 2021. Dan Spector / Global News

The higher temperatures Montreal is seeing are definitely bringing happiness to many, but they’re also raising anxiety levels for residents living near the waterfront.

Ile-Bizard resident Genevieve Delisle is inspecting water levels each day near her home on Paquin Street.

“We know that it’s almost all melted. It’s still low, but the amount of rain that they’re announcing, that can be scary, too,” she said.

Delisle suffers from post-traumatic stress after water got into her home in 2017 and 2019. These days she’s thinking of the massive dike the city built just steps from her home two years ago to protect the area. She’s thinking of the thousands of dollars of equipment she still has, the sandbag wall she built around her home, and the sleepless nights making sure sump pumps never stopped running.

“I’m fully equipped. We have 21 pumps, we have two generators. We have all kinds of pipes. So we’re good to go,” she said.

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Ile-Bizard Mayor Normand Marinacci says his borough is prepared to spring into action if necessary.

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

“We have some sandbags that we kept from last year in case, around 15,000 sandbags,” he said, adding that the city has jersey barriers it can use as well. Ile-Bizard will soon begin encouraging citizens to prepare their own land for potential flooding, and handing out a flooding preparedness guide.

In neighbouring Pierrefonds, officials have equipment at the ready. Mayor Jim Beis says the borough has spent $500,000 in flood preparation tools since 2018. He’s angry with the Plante administration for not helping out with flood prep costs this year.

“We have portable walls that replace sandbags. This year again we have rented on our own pumps that we need to mobilize,” Beis said.

He said Pierrefonds-Roxboro recently asked the City of Montreal to reimburse it for about $75,000 in flood-related spending, including mobile handwashing sinks Beis thinks would be vital for volunteers to use for COVID-19 protection if a flood were to occur.

“The request that we’ve made to the City of Montreal to be reimbursed for these expenditures was rejected because they haven’t declared emergency measures,” Beis said.

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He accuses Montreal of not having an adequate budgeting plan for flood response, and wonders if the city is ignoring the West Island.

Caroline Bourgeois, Montreal’s executive committee member responsible for flood preparation, insists the city is ready to protect all citizens from flooding. She said provincial laws prevent the city from unlocking emergency funds unless the city is in an actual emergency.

Read more: Some in flooded Quebec town angry new dike will block their waterfront views

“We have been working on flood prevention for many months,” she told Global News in an interview. “We know how to act. We know where to react. We know how to do it, so all the plan is done.

“We met the mayors who are concerned about that,” she said, explaining she had spoken with mayors from all riverside boroughs in recent weeks.

In Ile-Bizard, Marinacci hopes to soon have long-term solutions in place for his residents.

“Finally, our engineering firm has come up with a report,” he said, explaining that plans are moving forward to adjust the landscape to make it more floodproof.

He said extensive planning is required, however, and multiple levels of government will need to be involved in the process.

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“It won’t go on the ground this year. This is for sure,” he said.

Delisle wonders, “How long are we going to have to wait?”

She believes a large natural dike would take a lot of stress away from her neighbourhood.

For now, Delisle and her neighbours hope there won’t be another stressful addition to an already stressful year.

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