Flood of emotion
By Chad Ingram
Springtime is flood season in Haliburton County, particularly in Minden, where the hearty pioneers who settled the place, God bless ‘em, built the community on a flood plain.
It’s common this time of year, as the snowpack melts and as spring rains pour from above, for the Gull River to surge its banks.
Part of the feeder system for the Trent Severn canal, there’s the added complication that the Gull River is a conduit, the water from the chain of reservoir and flow-through lakes north of Minden making its way through the village and passing through a relatively small dam at the foot of Gull Lake.
The river often swallows up chunks of the Riverwalk pathway that snakes its way around the Gull in Minden’s downtown and sometimes submerges the town dock near the intersection of Water Street and Bobcaygeon Road.
Sometimes it get much worse than that.
Anyone who was around for it remembers the flood of 2013, which left parts of Minden underwater, and the township in a state of emergency, for three weeks.
The images are still imprinted vividly on our minds. Residents of Anson Street evacuating the area, some who chose to stay getting to and from their homes by boat. Walls of sandbags standing guard along Water Street. The downtown empty, quiet and lined with sandbags. The bridge that spans the Gull River in Minden’s downtown finally closed when it became questionable how much more it could withstand, the water getting eerily close to its surface.
There was extensive property damage, some people losing their homes and cottages.
When the Gull begins to swell the way it did last week, our collective anxiety swells with it. It’s impossible for it not to, the emotions from 2013, to use an obvious and terrible pun, flooding back.
We tense and we wait, subject to the whims of Mother Nature and the wisdom of the folks at Parks Canada, which controls the TSW.
Things have improved since the 2013 flood, as a direct result of the 2013 flood.
When the water began to rise last week, Minden Hills township began sending out media releases with safety tips, locations for residents to pick up sandbags, road closures, etc., those releases continuing throughout the weekend and into this week.
The township website has been continually updated, with residents able to sign up for email alerts.
Minden Hills also recently struck an emergency management program committee.
However, protecting Minden proper from flooding will, in the not-so-distant future, likely require some physical changes to the village’s downtown.
Last week it was difficult not to think how much worse the situation might have been had the winter snowfall not been so skimpy this season.
If we’re inclined to listen to scientists, we know that extreme weather is going to become more frequent and more extreme as time goes on. The manic weather we’ve experienced lately seems to demonstrate that.
Municipalities need to arm themselves against these changing weather patterns and in Minden Hills, while it will be an expensive and cumbersome process, at some point that will entail making alterations along the river, be it the heightening of banks, addition of retaining walls, widening the waterway in some places, etc.
With the Gull River expected to crest about the time this column will be published, it seems like we’ve managed to avoid disaster this year.
But there is no guarantee for next.