Rivers running low for time of year
As of last week, both the Gull River and Burnt River were running at levels below seasonal averages, but with precipitation in the forecast, it doesn’t mean that Minden, and the rest of Haliburton County, is necessarily safe from flooding this year.
“Snow and rain over the past seven days amounted to approximately 30 millimetres of mixed precipitation across the Haliburton watersheds resulting in increased flows and water levels at most locations,” wrote Karen Feeley, a public relations and communications officer with the Ontario Waterways Unit of Parks Canada, in an April 10 email to the paper. “The Haliburton reservoirs are below average and are levelling off. Due to the remaining snowpack and below normal precipitation in the month of March and the early part of April, the outflows were reduced from the reservoirs based on the projected snowmelt runoff. The flows on Gull and Burnt Rivers are below the average for this time of the year.”
There are more than 25 reservoir and flow-through lakes in the county that are part of the feeder system for the Trent Severn Canal.
With precipitation in the forecast this week, it is likely water levels will rise.
“The seven-day forecast suggests various amounts of precipitation potentially reaching the totals of about 35 mm of rain and snow with air temperatures close to 0° Celsius at night,” Feeley wrote. “The current forecast indicates that water levels and outflows will continue to increase at most locations. The current storage in the reservoir lakes is below the average value for this time of the year. Lake levels are monitored daily and assessed in relation to estimated runoff amounts, however they are susceptible to changes in response to the future precipitation amounts.”
There is currently space for an average seasonal amount of precipitation.
“In summary, the Haliburton lakes are currently able to adequately accommodate run off from the remaining snowpack and normal average precipitation amounts,” Feeley wrote. “However, it is important to understand that significant flood events can still occur depending upon rainfall amounts experienced. In 2017, frequent heavy precipitation events with excessive rainfall amounts occurred throughout late April and early May which led to the significant flooding that was experienced.”
Flooding last spring put the Township of Minden Hills into a state of emergency, as the Gull River surged it banks, covering parts of the village. A similar severe flood happened in the spring of 2013, during which the township also declared a state of emergency.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is responsible for issuing flood warnings for Haliburton County, since the area does not have a formal conservation authority.
The MNRF also noted that local reservoir lakes were below average seasonal levels as of last week, that the snowpack was below average for the time of year with below average snow-water equivalent, and that precipitation levels for April were anticipated to be close to normal.
“Extreme rainfall and rapid snowmelt are factors that contribute to flooding,” Jolanta Kowalski, senior communications officer for the MNRF wrote in an email to the paper. “The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is constantly monitoring local watershed conditions and weather to asses flood risk.”
Parks Canada recently launched a new online resource to allow residents to better track water levels.
The Ontario Waterways Water Management Info Net can be found at www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/on/trentsevern/info/infonet.
“The InfoNet contains background information on water management practices, water management updates, frequently asked questions about water management, various reports on water management, and the most recent water level of lakes along both the Rideau Canal and the Trent-Severn Waterway,” Feeley wrote. “Of specific note is the new water levels tool within the InfoNet which provides lake levels data from the last 30 days and graphic representation of levels for the current year. The information comes from hydrometric gauges located at locations along both waterways and is reviewed by trained and experienced Parks Canada water management staff.”
Residents can also sign up to receive water management updates by email. To do so, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “water management update” in the subject line.
To view flood information from the MNRF, residents can visit ontario.ca/flooding.