Quebec should better regulate dikes, engineering group recommends

According to an analysis by the association of provincial engineers, the Sainte-Marthe dike was not subject to the law and consequently was not subject to any legal standards — and that needs to change.

'It is clear that right now there seems to be a flaw in the system,' says APIGQ chair

After the natural dike in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-lac, Que., was breached by the Lake of Two Mountains, some people tried to drop in sandbags and dirt in an effort to plug the 50-metre channel that opened. (Radio-Canada)

It's high time that the province ensures dikes and other flood-stopping measures are properly regulated, according to the association representing engineers employed by the Quebec government (APIGQ).

The recent disaster in an off-island Montreal suburb serves as an example of what can go wrong when dikes aren't subject to any legal standard, APIGQ says.

Thousands of homes were flooded in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac following the failure of a permanent natural dike, and the fact that it crumbled so easily under pressure has raised some serious questions in the heavily damaged municipality northwest of Montreal.

APIGQ's president, Marc-André Martin, told Radio-Canada that had the dike in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac fallen under the regulations set out in Quebec's Dam Safety Act, the risks associated with it would have been better assessed.

The Dam Safety Act imposes a series of measures governing the construction, alteration and operation of high-capacity dams. But the engineering group says it should apply to smaller structures, too.

Crucial 'pile of dirt' not regulated

Marc-André Martin, the president of the associaton of professional engineers of the government of Quebec (APIGQ), said many structures like the natural dike in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac are not subject to any government regulations. (APIGQ)

As it is, the obviously crucial dike — which the president called a "pile of dirt" — was not subjected to any legal regulations.

As is the case for all anti-flood dikes in Quebec, its construction, maintenance and risk management are entirely the responsibility of the owner.

Sainte-Marthe is just one example of what could happen elsewhere in the province, Martin said. The government needs to review the law and make appropriate changes to ensure all dikes are properly maintained and monitored, he said.

"It is clear that right now there seems to be a flaw in the system," he said. "The ball is in the government's court."

Quebec's Environment Ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.

With files from Radio-Canada


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