Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Town ‘optimistic’ on flood threat

With the short-term weather forecast looking fairly positive, and water levels on Rainy Lake expected to crest by Saturday, local emergency management is optimistic the provisions now in place will be enough to stop flooding along the waterfront here.
“I can assure the people in Fort Frances that the circumstance here is pretty well-managed,” Fire Chief Frank Sheppard said Monday.

“The administration and the works crew have done a tremendous job ensuring our critical infrastructure is being maintained.
“As far as handling the sort of moment-to-moment issues, we’re able to handle that with our resources internally now,” Chief Sheppard added.
“I’m far more concerned with communities outside Fort Frances than ourselves,” he stressed.
Sandbagging has been completed and unless there’s a drastic change in circumstances, there won’t be any further bagging, at least here in Fort Frances, Chief Sheppard noted this morning.
But rock work is being done at Seven Oaks, where George Armstrong Co. is doing some emergency stabilization to combat shoreline erosion there.
The public is reminded this area if off-limits to vehicular traffic. This is for the safety of the public and the contractor, who is going to continue working on the installation of the rock wall to protect the shoreline from further damage.
Chief Sheppard also said the town is monitoring its catch basins.
“As it sits right now, water elevations within catch basins are up slightly,” he noted.
“And depending on what happens when it crests, we’ll likely re-seal the one catch basin down near Witherspoons, between Minnie and Williams,” he added.
“Beyond that, I’m not anticipating anything further.”
Another matter which needs to be addressed is the underground fuel storage tanks at Rusty Myers Flying Service here.
Chief Sheppard has drawn up a draft mitigation plan to make sure the tanks are safe.
“What we can’t control is wave action,” he remarked.
“If anyone was out and around [Sunday] night at all, there was some very strong winds coming out of the south and southeast, which generated a tremendous amount of wave impact at Couchiching First Nation.
“That same scenario, coming back towards the area of Idylwild Drive, would create a lot more problems,” Chief Sheppard added.
“If there’s debris floating in the water and it’s washed onto shore, and it ruptures either an above-ground tank or does damage to the underground facility, there really is potential for a lot of fuel to . . . leak into the water, which would be really devastating for this community as well as the First Nation,” he warned.
The plan, which has to be approved by the Ministry of Environment, would include pumping the fuel out of the underground tanks into a stable above-ground storage facility, then filling the tanks with water to stabilize them until the water levels return to normal.
“We don’t want the tanks to come out of the ground,” Chief Sheppard stressed.
“What happens is if they’re emptied out, and there’s water around them, they’ll have the tendency to be buoyed up by the amount they’re displacing.”
In related news, all of the government dock at Sand Bay had been moved as of this morning.
Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown noted a magnet will be run over the grounds at the Point where the dock pieces were in order to pick up any nails and other metal debris that might have come off it.
Meanwhile, Couchiching FN still may have to evacuate 12-16 homes, Coun. Christine Jourdain said Monday.
She noted one man has had to be evacuated from his home, which “is surrounded by the lake now.”
“There’s probably going to be no returning him home until we either remediate his home or find him a new place to live,” she added.
Couchiching also got approval to construct a wall—similar to the one at the cemetery—from the hill to Maurice Road to ensure the stability of that road and Rainy Lake Boulevard.
Work on this was to start today.
The Five-Mile Dock also is doing poorly, with the “L” part of the structure now detached.
Coun. Jourdain said this morning that a decision would be made today as to whether the dock is salvageable or not.
Looking ahead, it’s uncertain as to how soon the town will remove the sandbags from the waterfront here.
While the short-term forecast is positive, Chief Sheppard said the long-term outlook suggests it could be a “lousy summer.”
“That stuff is going to stay there [as long as] it needs to stay there,” Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig, who chairs the Emergency Control Group, vowed this morning.
“The events will have to work around that,” he added, referring to the inaugural “Harmony of Nations” Music Festival and the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship, both of which will take place at the Sorting Gap Marina later this month.
“I would be in no rush to start moving stuff,” added McCaig, noting sandbags will stay where they are until the water level of the upper river drops.

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