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Report on ‘historic’ 2022 Rainy Lake-area flooding calls for watershed access app, emergency floodway study

Sandbags line properties along a flooded riverfront road in Fort Frances in this drone photo taken last year. A new report examines the spring 2022 flooding in the Rainy Lake area of Ontario, and includes recommendations on how to better handle any future flooding. (Nathan Calder/Facebook - image credit)
A draft report on flooding in the Rainy River area of Ontario last year recommends the International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board look into the development of a new app that would provide easy access to information about the area’s watershed.

The board’s Water Levels Committee, which has both a Canadian and U.S. component, released the report on its website on Friday. It sheds light on the spring 2022 flooding and includes recommendations on how to better handle any such disasters in the future.

The Rainy River Basin received 257 millimetres of rain between April 1 and the end of May, twice the average for that period, says the report, which calls the flooding “a disaster of historic proportions.”

Northwestern Ontario was among areas in Canada — including the Northwest Territories, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba — hit with significant spring flooding. Several communities in the Ontario region became eligible for disaster assistance following the floods.

“For both Rainy and Namakan lakes, those were historic peaks,” said Megan Garner, Canadian Water Levels Committee co-chair, adding the water levels rivalled those of other “big flood years,” in 2014 and 1950.

We understand a high level of desire in the communities and folks who live around the lakes to understand what’s happening and to be involved. – Megan Garner, Canadian Water Levels Committee co-chair

Garner said the flooding was simply due to “unprecedented levels of precipitation” last spring.

“We did have above-normal snowpack, but we were heading off a drought year that previous year,” she said. “Starting in April, the level of precipitation was beyond anything historic that had been received, and just beyond anything we would have reasonably forecasted would occur.”

Garner said the report was compiled due to the significance of the flooding and examines how the flooding progressed.

“It’s something we had promised, obviously, and talked about with folks in the basin last fall,” Garner said. “We toured communities, First Nations, met with groups and media around the lakes during the flood event. It was almost actually at the peak of the event.”

Subsequent trips were made in August and September to get feedback from people and better understand the impact of the flooding.

Increasing communication with residents is among the recommendations, Garner said.

“We understand a high level of desire in the communities and folks who live around the lakes to understand what’s happening and to be involved,” she said. “So we have historically had one engagement point with folks, which usually occurs around the end of February, where the Water Levels Committee hosts called a pre-spring engagement meeting.”

Going forward, more such meetings will be held, including one set for this April, during which the committee will provide an update on conditions in the area and get residents’ input on what they’re seeing.

Garner said the committee will also provide more information on its website, to media and on social media to “make sure people know what the activities of the Water Levels Committee and the International League Watershed Board are.”

Along with the suggestion of developing an app, the report recommends that:

  • The board urge the International Joint Commission (IJC) to conduct a preliminary feasibility study on the creation of an emergency floodway on the Canadian or American side of the floodway.
  • The board work with the Duluth National Weather Service (in Minnesota) on ways the service can enhance its flood forecasting abilities.

The entire report can be read on the IJC’s website, which includes ways for people living in the area to provide feedback. The public comment period closes on April 3.

As for spring 2023, Garner said it’s too early to determine whether there will be more flooding.

“We can look for risk factors, but by no means can we declare that a flood would occur at this time, because the conditions are still winter conditions,” she said. “The conditions that cause flooding don’t manifest until later in the year.”

Things are similar in the Thunder Bay, Ont., area when it comes to spring flood forecasting.

Tammy Cook, chief administrative officer with the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority, said the organization did snow surveys earlier this month.

“We found that snow depth was ranged between 46 to 61 centimetres, which is about 16 per cent above average,” she said. “Water content in that snow was around 135 to 155 millimetres, which is also about 38 per cent above average when we compare those numbers to what we typically see for March 1.”

However, it’s too early to tell whether that will translate into flooding in the Thunder Bay area in the spring, Cook said.

“We could see similar to last year. It depends on how the spring basically plays out.

“We could see a lot of sublimation where the snow just kind of disappears, and we may not get a lot of snow from now to the end of winter.”

Credit belongs to : ca.news.yahoo.com

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