Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sandbag removal being discussed

With water levels of Rainy Lake and the upper Rainy River on a decline, the local Emergency Management Control Group is beginning to discuss formulating a plan to remove the protective measures that were put in place to battle recent high waters.
“It would appear to me that we are now below the level by about three inches where we actually initiated some protective measures,” voiced Fort Frances Fire Chief Frank Sheppard at the group’s meeting Monday morning.

“I’m going to suggest to you that if we are seeing this trend continuing, then we should be in pretty good shape,” he said. “I think it’s probably appropriate at some point here to start talking about the removal of protective measures.”
As such, Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown told the group that some residents along Idylwild Drive are anxious to clear the sandbags off their property.
“We’re going to have to do something to help people get rid of the sandbags,” he noted. “But do you think it’s too early to be doing that?”
While there is manageable rain in the forecast, MNR representatives indicated the anticipated precipitation is from thunderstorm cells, which are unpredictable.
“Personally, I think we should wait for another week,” expressed Chief Sheppard, citing that while water levels have been dropping, the weather can change quickly and put them right back in the same situation they were in last month.
Brown indicated since last week, Rainy Lake dropped about six inches, but the levels are still outside of the rule curve.
“We’re still a foot out of the top of the curve,” he voiced. “But we’re seeing a downwards trend . . .
“It is going down, but when do we make a call?” he asked. “Do we wait until we get the lake level back in the curve because then it can usually handle a storm? Or do we go, okay we’re outside the curve, but all the weather is showing it going [down] to start picking up these sandbags?”
The group decided it would be best to wait at least another week to make a decision on sandbag removal.
However, a tentative plan would see a town truck being placed near La Place Rendez-Vous for homeowners to discard the sandbags, which will then be taken to the landfill where it can be used as cover material.
Brown noted he’s concerned that if people don’t have a way of getting rid of the sandbags on their property, they will just slice them and drop them in the lake.
“I don’t think the MNR wants that,” he voiced.
Sheppard suggested they wait until the levels are back inside the rule curve before they start removing protective measures along the lake.
“From the view that I’ve done on the river, I think some of that some of that protection could start to be removed,” he noted. “But on Rainy Lake if you get an east wind, above the level of the rule curve, I still think there is a high potential for damage.”
“I think we just need to wait a little bit longer,” Brown added.
The local Emergency Management Control Group, who continues to monitor the water levels on a daily basis, will meet again Monday morning to continue discussing the removal of protective measures.

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