Flood cleanup underway in Couchiching and Fort Frances

The Couchiching First Nation and and Fort Frances were two of the communities hardest hit by flooding in the Rainy River basin this summer.

Fort Frances hopes to lift state of emergency next week.

Couchiching Chief Sara Mainville said about 34,000 sandbags must now be removed from spots around the community. (supplied)

The Couchiching First Nation and and Fort Frances were two of the communities hardest hit by flooding in the Rainy River basin this summer.

Now that the water levels are subsiding the cleanup efforts are underway.

"It has been very busy," said Patrick Briere, the public information officer for the town of Fort Frances. "It's starting to come to an end. There's a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, so it's gonna be nice for everybody to be able to just get back into normal routine, and get some well-deserved rest."

Briere said a lot of cleanup remains to be done. He said the town is swamped with sandbag removal because over 50,000 were put in place to control the flooding.

There's a light at the end of the tunnel- Patrick Briere, Fort Frances public information officer

As well, Briere said Fort Frances had to have a local contractor build a rock wall along the shoreline.

"The erosion that was happening to the land in that area was getting pretty extreme and we wanted to put some kind of protection in place to prevent anymore land erosion happening," he said.

Still the sandbag removal and cleanup has been swift and Briere hopes the state of emergency can be lifted next week.

Shoreline is "never going to be the same" : Couchiching Chief

The adjacent community of Couchiching is also continuing with its cleanup efforts.

Sara Mainville, the chief of Couchiching First Nation, said 34,000 sandbags were used. "We're actually hoping to utilize some of the sand at our golf course which might be the silver lining of all this - we'll have some more sand traps"

Chief Sara Mainville says erosion caused by record high water levels has permanently changed the shoreline in Couchiching. (Supplied)

Mainville said unlike the neighbouring community of Fort Frances, the First Nation does not have a parks department so they are looking to use local labour and possibly volunteers to remove the sandbags and properly store them someplace, an effort that will take up to three weeks to complete.

Mainville said water levels are still 45 - 50 centimetres inches above the rule curve — that's the target elevation of a reservoir. 

Similarly to Fort Frances, she said Couchiching also had to reinforce the lakeside shoreline "we've actually put a rock wall adjacent to protect the shoreline so that there wasn't any more land lost, so that's entirely changed the look of the lakeside."

Debris is another problem facing the community. Mainville said the remnants of a dozen docks have collected along the shore in one of the bays near Couchiching.

In mid-August there are plans to host a meeting with the International Joint Commission on the Couchiching First Nation to discuss water levels and concerns the First Nation has about the flooding.