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Scrambling for a flood plan

The first week of the spring thaw left many Penhold residents facing a menacing rising tide but the town’s mayor is not sure if there is a plan to meet the threat head on.
Flooding is occurring once again in Penhold and residents are asking for answers from town council.
Flooding is occurring once again in Penhold and residents are asking for answers from town council.

The first week of the spring thaw left many Penhold residents facing a menacing rising tide but the town’s mayor is not sure if there is a plan to meet the threat head on.

“I don’t know if we have a plan in place to deal with the flooding,” said Mayor Dennis Cooper following a concerned resident’s presentation last week to town council.

“We need to give as much protection as possible but we can only do so much because nature can bring a whole bunch of fury towards us.”

During Jo-Ann Grimwood’s presentation to town council she wanted to know if council is committed to solving the annual flooding problems in Penhold. To make her point she brought videos from 2010 of her flooded neighbourhood.

Grimwood said she has taken her concerns to the town several times but doesn’t feel as though her message is being heard or taken seriously. Council was told she wants to work with the town to fix these problems.

Despite having done all she can to keep the water off her property and from entering her house, she told council she now needs support from the town.

“The situation was so bad that when cars drove through that intersection the water rushed up our sidewalks close to our front steps,” said Grimwood, adding the flood waters were so high last year children could float across the street on floating toys.

Grimwood lives near the intersection of Robinson Avenue and Lee Street, which is located on the south end of Penhold and is in an area that has had problems with flooding for several years, including causing damage to several basements. “People were on their cell phones calling for help and yelling at drivers to slow down going through the intersection,” said Grimwood.

“I personally called the bylaw officer and left a message. He called back two days later stating that this was an emergency and he should have got the message.”

However, no one came to the residents’ aid until much later that day when one person put up barricades to stop traffic through the area.

After listening to her presentation, council moved for administration to review her concerns and bring a report back to the next meeting.

Penhold CAO Rick Binnendyk said the situation was a one out of 100 flood and came fast and with a big rain. He added there was no question the intersection referred to by Grimwood is a problem.

While the mayor told The Province he was unsure there was a plan in place to deal with the flooding, Binnendyk said the town has been working to alleviate the flooding problems for the last few years.

“There has been some work done and they are checking the catch basins on a regular basis to make sure they are clear,” said Binnendyk, adding they learned what some of the problems are from past floods. He added that in a major emergency there is a list of priorities for public works.

He said the first priority is the sewage stations to prevent sewage backing up into residents’ homes. Their next concern is the storm water issues, said Binnendyk.

The CAO said they had discussions with their engineering group and are looking at diverting the water in another direction.

As far as having a concrete plan to deal with the flooding, Binnendyk said that is something they are still looking at.

“Is there options? There are always options. The question is can you afford it?”

Cooper weighed in on Grimwood’s presentation saying it was “right on”, adding the town needs to find a way to control the water and move it away from residents’ properties.

Bob MacGreggor, another resident who attended the last council meeting with his wife, said his basement is already flooded. He said after three attempts to speak with council over the years he went one step further and approached local MLA Luke Ouellette about his concerns.

Ouellette told The Province MacGreggor is the only Penhold resident who he has spoken to about the flooding but said there are solutions for the problem.

“We try to stay out of municipalities unless they ask us for help,” said Ouellette.

“But if there is a disaster again in Penhold then the town needs to declare it and the province can step in and help.”

Ouellette said disasters are often caused by uninsurable circumstances such as ice jams in the river and if there are a number of flooded basements then that might be considered a disaster.

Appealing to the province for help was not something the town considered last spring when the flooding was bad, said Cooper. He added it is something they might turn to this year.

“I think (last year) at the time we thought, ‘We have had a big rainfall and now we just have to deal with it,” said Cooper.

The mayor said the flooding issue is something he would like to meet with residents about and get their feedback on the best solutions.