Deux-Montagnes anxious as it waits for Quebec's OK to build new dike

The mayor of Deux-Montagnes says the clock is ticking on flood preparedness, with water levels already high and an abnormal amount of snow waiting to melt.

High water and snow levels could mean more flooding for communities affected last year

Firefighters walk through a flooded street as the water starts to recede May 12, 2017 in Deux-Montagnes, Que. The city says it needs to build a new permanent dike. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

The mayor of Deux-Montagnes says the clock is ticking on flood preparedness, with water levels already high and an abnormal amount of snow waiting to melt.

Denis Martin says the city has submitted requests to the provincial government to get approval to build a permanent dike where the water flowed in during last spring's floods.

But without an answer yet, Martin says time is running out for the city to build it by spring. 

"If there's a quick melt, and a lot of rain like last year, then we may have problems," Martin said on CBC Montreal's Daybreak Wednesday morning.

"We need to have an answer quickly."

Prevention is key

The dike would measure 300 metres, protecting a lower plateau of the city's shore where water poured in last year and inundated more than 250 homes in the area. 

"It was very bad," Martin said of the aftermath. "People were taken aback and very surprised because there had never been any water there before."

Martin says the city has commissioned private studies, as required by Quebec's Public Security Ministry, to determine what impact a new permanent dike would have on surrounding areas.

Several municipalities affected by flooding last year are bracing themselves for the possibility of it reoccurring, with less than a month left before spring. 

Studies show no impact on other cities, environment

Martin says studies found there would be no consequences for other cities due to displacement of water and that there would be no environmental impact. 

In a statement to CBC, the ministry appears to have not taken those into account yet. 

It said it must be rigorous in its analysis of the project "to ensure that a dike in Deux-Montagnes won't simply displace the water, making other communities more vulnerable to flooding."

The City of Deux-Montagnes had to declare a state of emergency during the flooding last spring. Mayor Denis Martin says several homes are still waiting for repairs, or even to be rebuilt. (Maxime Coutié/Radio-Canada)

The ministry said it's been looking into the request since December and that it plans to be by the city's side "every step of the way."

Martin says the statement to CBC was the first he's heard from Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux's office. He says, ideally, it would give Deux-Montagnes the go ahead as early as next week, in order to begin the public tendering process. 

Temporary solution not enough

Martin says Deux-Montagnes' residents can still rest assured the city is working on ways to prevent future flooding. It bought concrete blocks, a special membrane and trained city workers to set up a temporary dike using the materials that would allow the area to be ready to withstand flooding in less than 48 hours. 

"We want to reassure citizens who already have a lot of grievances — some have houses that are not rebuilt for now," he said. 

The issue is the temporary dike would only stop 80 per cent of a flooding similar to last year's. 

According to Martin, the latest the ministry can approve the project in order for the city build the levee in time for this spring is mid-March. 

"We're going to be ready this year, but we need a permanent dike," he said.