Human error, negligence ruled out in flooding report

by Jason Bain | November 29, 2019
Sandbags holding back rising water on Lake Ontario
Sandbags hold back a rising Lake Ontario in May 2019 in Port Dalhousie. Photo by Kevin McCarthy

Neither human error nor negligent dam operation caused this spring’s damaging floods, according to an independent report released by the province on Thursday (Nov. 28).

Doug McNeil was named Special Advisor on Flooding and tasked with conducting the review by Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Minister John Yakabuski in July. He delivered a report to government Oct. 31 that is now public.

He confirmed this year’s record-setting flooding in many parts of the province was caused by a combination of weather conditions. They included a colder-than-average winter and spring, higher-than-average snowpack, slow winter thaw, rapid snow melt, and significant spring rain.

McNeil found that nothing pointed to human error or the negligent operation of water control structures as the cause of the flooding. The government and its partners were effective at reducing and mitigating flood risks, he determined.

Government commits to actions

The province has committed to recommended actions including:

  • Modernizing regulations under the Conservation Authorities Act to have authorities focus on their core mandate of protecting people and property from flooding and other natural hazards.
  • Launching a review of natural hazard technical guides and guidelines related to flood forecasting and warning.
  • Maintaining more than $4.7 million for the hydrometric (stream gauge) network for flood forecasting and flood warnings that help municipalities prepare for flooding.

The province is reviewing the remaining recommendations along with partners and will work together to increase flood risk awareness and help build flood resiliency, officials stated.

Steps already taken

Officials said steps already taken include:

  • Starting procurement for its first-ever broad, multi-sector provincial climate change impact assessment.
  • Opening the Green Stream infrastructure fund of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. It gives smaller municipalities access to approximately $200 million to invest in critical water, waste water and stormwater projects.
  • Launching a $1 million pilot project under the Municipal Disaster Recovery Assistance program. It helps municipalities rebuild damaged infrastructure.
  • Making it faster for property owners to get the approvals they need to repair flood-related damage to shorelines.

Click here to view the report.

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