Beaver dam blamed for flash flood on Gaspé highway

A large beaver dam is being blamed for flooding out a part of Highway 132 in the Gaspé late last week near Matapedia. The mayor of a nearby community says something has to be done to prevent this from happening again.

Mayor of Restigouch-Sud-Est says it has happened before

A beaver dam is the source behind flooding near Matapedia, Que. last week that washed over Highway 132. (Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)

A large beaver dam is being blamed for flooding out a part of Highway 132 in the Gaspé region late last week. 

The mayor of a nearby community says it is mere luck that no one was seriously injured.

The incident happened Friday at approximately 1:30 a.m. on Friday west of Matapedia and close to the community of Ristigouche-Sud-Est.

A beaver dam on a small lake about two kilometres inland gave way.

François Boulay, mayor of the nearby community of Ristigouche-Sud-Est, said the lake is at an altitude of roughly 240 meters so the water flows down a steep gully.

"This tremendous volume of water came gushing down and carried with it tons and tons of material and debris, and swooshed away two cars that were located in the parking lot of a house adjacent to the gully." 

Debris washes up on Highway 132 west of Matapedia, Que. after a beaver dam gave way at an inland lake late last week. (Radio-Canada)

"Thank god nobody got hurt," he said.

The driver of a half-ton truck hit some of the debris but was unharmed and alerted emergency officials.

First responders didn't know the first two vehicles caught up in the flooding were parked at the time, so they initially searched for passengers.

The damage done to the vehicles gives a sense of the force of water.

Boulay described one vehicle as, "half-buried vertically, almost the way you'd wrap up a bag of chips when you're finished." 

This car, which the mayor described like a crumpled bag of potato chips, was damaged in flooding on Highway 132 last week near Matapedia, Que. (Radio-Canada)

Similar accident in 1998

Boulay inspected Nichol's Lake on Sunday where the 1.8 meter high beaver dam had been blocking the flow of water. He said the dam itself was also washed away from the force of the water. 

A similar flooding incident, connected to a beaver dam, happened in 1998 he said. Quebec's Transport Ministry looked into the incident at the time and he is upset that it happened again.

"During the next few days we're going to try to sit down and gather exactly what happened back then that everybody basically dropped the ball and forgot to keep an eye on that." Boulay said. 

This beaver dam in Lac Nichol is being blamed for flooding along Highway 132 last week near Matapedia, Que. (François Boulay)

The mayor said had last week's incident taken place during busy commuting times during the day, it could have been tragic. 

"If that had happened at that time, the amount and volume of debris that came on to the 132, you could have seen accidents and peoples' lives might have been in danger."

The highway was closed for several hours on Friday between Matapedia and Pointe-à-la-Croix.

Road work on Highway 132 after flooding last week. (Michel-Félix Tremblay/Radio-Canada)

with files from Jean-François Deschênes and Michel-Félix Tremblay of Radio-Canada