Officials feeling more hopeful about Rainy Lake flood situation

States of emergency in Fort Frances, Ont., and in the Couchiching First Nation remain in effect, but officials say the weekend didn't bring as much rain as expected.

Couchiching First Nation gets emergency funding to protect a dozen homes at risk

Dozens of volunteers placed sandbags along the shore of a Fort Frances park on Saturday and Sunday. Fort Frances information officer Patrick Briere says the area did not get as much rain as expected on the weekend, helping to slow the water level rise on Rainy Lake and Rainy River. (Patrick Briere/Town of Fort Frances)

Officials in Fort Frances, Ont., and the Couchiching First Nation say they're feeling more positive that ongoing flooding won't do as much additional damage in the coming days as they had feared.

Patrick Briere, the public information officer for Fort Frances' emergency control group, spoke to CBC News on Sunday while he was out with about 40 volunteers placing sandbags along the Rainy Lake shoreline in Pither's Point Park.

He said thunderstorms and heavy rainfall expected over the weekend didn't materialize, so the lake's water level hadn't risen as much as he had feared.

"It's not as significant as … forecasted," Briere said. "The weather systems have blown by us, so that has been a huge help for us."

Briere added that he was more concerned about further erosion by the waves produced by high winds on Sunday. He said the park has already lost its entire beach area to ongoing flooding, so volunteers were using sandbags to protect other parts of the land.

"We're just being proactive and we're trying to … limit the amount of damage that's happening," he said.

Besides the effect of flooding on the shoreline, Briere pointed out a particular hazard the high water level is posing to boaters trying to go under the CN bridge in Fort Frances.

"We're seeing boats going through that area right now and there's not much clearance to the bottom of the bridge," he said, adding that boaters should exercise extreme caution.

Emergency funding brings relief to First Nation

In the neighbouring Couchiching First Nation, officials sounded the alarm last week as erosion on the swollen shores of the Rainy Lake threatened several homes.

The Couchiching First Nation says emergency funding pledged by the federal government on Sunday afternoon will allow the community to build a retaining wall to protect about a dozen homes threatened by the eroding shoreline caused by ongoing flooding. (Lana Mainville/Couchiching First Nation)

On Sunday afternoon, Couchiching's emergency resources coordinator, Christine Jourdain, told CBC News the federal department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development had just approved emergency funding so the First Nation could build a retaining wall to protect about a dozen houses.

"We're talking about 400 metres of shoreline that we received approval … to go ahead and do that for the necessity of saving those homes along the lakefront," she said. 

Jourdain said Hydro One was monitoring a transformer at risk of being submerged by water. If that happened, she said, it would knock out power to another group of houses in the community. 

But Jourdain said the situation is "looking more positive" than it did before the weekend.

Although there's rain in the weather forecast for Monday and Tuesday, both Jourdain and Briere are hoping that like the weekend, the rainfall will be less than expected.

"Let's just hope the weather keeps co-operating with us," said Jourdain.


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