Surging Lake Ontario approaching record water levels seen in 2017

Water levels in Lake Ontario are creeping up toward record numbers seen in 2017, when chunks of the city’s shoreline were flooded and washed away.

Sections of Hamilton trails now closed because of flooding

The Royal Botanical Gardens says that due to rising lake levels, more low-lying trails may be flooded in these areas: Desjardin/Waterfront Trail, Spring Garden Rd, Grindstone Marsh, Marsh Walk Boardwalk, Chegwin Trail, Anishinaabe Waadiziwin Trail, Captain Cootes Trail, and Spencer Creek Trail. (Royal Botanical Gardens)

Water levels in Lake Ontario are creeping up toward record numbers seen in 2017, when chunks of the city's shoreline were flooded and washed away.

High water and erosion has already forced the closure of sections of the Waterfront Trail along the Beach Strip and near Confederation Park, the city says — and it appears the water could remain there well into the summer, leaving well-loved Hamilton trails underwater.

"It could be mid-July before we see a consistent decline in water levels in the lake," said Jonathan Bastien, who handles water resources engineering for the Hamilton Conservation Authority.

The Royal Botanical Gardens said in a tweet that due to rising lake levels, some low lying trails are flooded, like the Cootes Trail, the Spencer Creek Trail, and Grindstone Marsh.

"This flooding has also resulted in the cancellation of Fishway operations on the weekends until flood levels recede significantly, possibly by mid-July," the RBG said.

Bastien said water levels in Lake Ontario are about 63 centimetres above the average for this time of year, which means they have risen about eight cm in the last 10 days.

Portions of the Waterfront Trial are closed due to flooding, the city says. (City of Hamilton)

Keeping the forecast in mind, the conservation authority expects that level to rise another 10 cm or so.

"But then it should crest and stabilize," he said.

Even so, Bastien said, the water levels shouldn't become a big issue unless there are also waves of 1.3 metres or higher.

"We're keeping a very close eye on the wind and the waves," he said.

Sewers 'pretty full'

City crews are also doing what they can to try to mitigate rising water levels, said Dave Alberton, manager of water distribution and wastewater collection with Hamilton Water.

The city is now seeing groundwater start to come up in the Beach Boulevard area and across side streets, he said — which is starting to affect people's homes.

"[Residents] are starting to see water inch up in their basements," he said.

Water levels are higher than average in Lake Ontario, the Conservation Authority says. (Adam Carter/CBC)

Sewers in the area are now being impacted with too much water as well, he said. "They're pretty full."

In response, the city is running two pumps around the clock on top of hydrovac trucks in the area to ease the stress on the system, and on people's basements.

Then in the west part of the city, harbour water is starting to backflow into combined sewer tanks.

"The levels of flow coming to the wastewater treatment plant are higher than normal, but they can still be handled," Alberton said.

Back in 2017, when water levels were among the highest the city has ever seen, there were even fish from the lake ending up in the wasterwater treatment.

That hasn't happened yet this year — but Alberton says he isn't ruling it out.

"I believe we're very close to those levels of 2017."


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