Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Flood threat now ‘stable’

With the exception of ongoing work at Seven Oaks and Couchiching FN, the local Emergency Management Control Group remains in a “holding pattern” for now.
“From my perspective, it looks like things are stable,” Fire Chief Frank Sheppard said this morning, adding the long-term weather forecast looks positive.

“We’re still holding with no significant changes to water levels,” he noted.
The five-day forecast indicates precipitation for tonight and early tomorrow, with an accumulation of about 25 mm (one inch).
Meanwhile, Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown said the upper river has dropped 31 mm (1.25 inches) over the last two days while the lake level at the Five-Mile Dock has gone down 19 mm (.75 inches).
George Armstrong Co. Ltd. continues to work at the Seven Oaks area, doing some emergency stabilization to combat shoreline erosion there.
Brown said that since June 23, the contractor has delivered 228 loads of rock to the site, weighing roughly 3,800 tonnes.
“They got a couple days left,” he noted. “They got the road closed off and they’re working along Calder Drive there.”
Brown reminded the public this area remains off-limits to vehicular traffic for the safety of the public and the contractor.
The public also is asked to stay away from the ball park area, which is under water.
Looking ahead, Brown said the town should start thinking about getting the “bents” (timber frames) and sheet piling removed from where the government dock used to be.
He added that when the water drops, having 188 “bents” sticking out of the water is going to be an issue.
Over at Couchiching, Coun. Christine Jourdain noted this morning that work is progressing on the rock wall on Rainy Lake Boulevard.
Some decks and other structure have to be moved, and the shoreline area cleaned up.
The community’s sole evacuee has been put up at La Place Rendez-Vous until mid-August, after which time he will have the option of staying at a cabin for the same cost.
“Everything’s holding steady,” said Coun. Jourdain, adding there has been no issues with a transformer which is being monitored, any of the septic fields, or any of the other homes.
Rail bridge
With the high water levels on the upper river, getting under the CN lift bridge spanning the Ranier rapids isn’t possible for boats, meaning boaters have had to call in for the bridge to be raised to get through.
While some boaters have complained about this, Chief Sheppard said CN has been raising the bridge up and down—though perhaps just not as often as some would like.
“The reality of it is there’s a lot of train traffic going across that bridge,” he noted. “So I’m not sure that it’s going to satisfy people that want to use it.
“And there certainly is a risk when you start getting close to it, as far as getting caught in a current,” Chief Sheppard added.
He noted it would be difficult to notify the public when trains are coming through—and thus the bridge would need to be down—as there is sometimes extra train traffic in addition to scheduled ones.
While CN operates the lift bridge at Ranier, it is regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard and CN ultimately receives direction from that agency.
Chief Sheppard said he’s awaiting a response from the latter regarding local concerns.
He also noted CN is doing an evaluation of the rail bed at Calder Drive to see if it will be impacted by water.
“But as it sits right now, we’re stable and there’s no direct contact with water,” he said.
“The bigger risk would have been had we not done the protective measures, which effectively limited any sort of water impact to it,” Chief Sheppard added.
In related news, the town will be stopping of its emergency information line (274-1818) as of Monday.
No calls have been received on it since Sunday.
The public will be able to call 274-5323 with any questions or concerns with regards to the current emergency situation.
After-hours callers will be directed to the appropriate place via the town’s automated directory.
Given there is no drastic change to the flooding situation, the Emergency Management Control Group will not meet again until next Wednesday.

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