City plans flood recovery efforts as Ottawa River slowly recedes

Cumberland flooding
Flooding in Cumberland, seen on May 7, 2017. (Photo by Alex Abdelwahab / Metro)

Flood updates dominated city council on Wednesday as officials transition from delivering sandbags to removing debris.

“The sun is out and I can confirm that water levels are in fact dropping,” said Mayor Jim Watson, noting that despite the good news, things are still difficult and the town hall meetings that took place in affected areas yesterday were “emotional.”

The full impact of the floods so far in the City of Ottawa: 323 properties and 137 families displaced in West Carleton, 21 properties and 18 families affected in Cumberland and two properties in Britannia.

“I think the information sessions held yesterday were a good start, but I challenge each and every one of us, including our staff, to do even more. We need to continue to be thoughtful and approachable in our response, instead of bureaucratic,” he said.

That need for less red tape and more action was echoed by West Carleton Coun. Eli El-Chantiry.

“Let’s not say sun is out, the water’s down. Let’s keep supporting the community,” he said after thanking volunteers. “We did a great job, but I hope we don’t think we won this battle. We didn’t.”

On the contrary, city manager Steve Kanellakos said, the battle has only just begun. On Wednesday afternoon the city’s senior staff began a detailed planning session on how to remove debris and best help residents.

Garbage removal will be complicated and badly needed, roads have deteriorated and septic-system failures mean the flooding could turn into a health crisis if people don’t pay attention to contaminated water. Watson said he expects cleanup of "public debris" to take at least three to four weeks.

Full assessments will have to wait until water levels go down further, according to Kanellakos.

“We’re committing to making sure on site supports remain in place for as long as they are needed. We are not removing them until we get past this crisis,” he said.

The city's information centres will be open Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The info centres are located at the Community Hall at the R.J. Kennedy Arena, the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre East Parking Lot, the Constance and Buckham’s Bay Community Centre and the Fitzroy Harbour Community Centre.

Watson said the city plans to apply for the province’s Municipal Disaster Recovery Assistance program in order to lessen the financial impact.

“There are some extenuating costs that we have been absorbing, but we haven’t been worrying about bookkeeping matters at this point we just want to get in there and get the job done and help people,” he said.

This article originally appeared in Metro News.