New Brunswick

Military here as long as needed, but flood-weary residents ready for return to normal

Emergency officials are keeping a close eye on the St. John River, as water levels continue to hover above flood stage.

Defence minister said about 2,000 troops have been deployed in Canada to help with flooding

Military vehicles cross the bridge onto Randolph Island in Saint John. The island has been cut off by floodwaters. (CBC)

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says the military will stay in New Brunswick to help with flooding until water levels recede. 

 "We'll be here as long as we're needed," he said at a news conference in Saint John on Monday morning. 

Sajjan and New Brunswick Public Safety Minister Carl Urquhart are visiting Saint John, an area experiencing significant flooding.

But Sajjan reiterated that New Brunswick won't have to pay for military help. He said the cost will be evaluated once troops leave. 

"The cost is quite significant when you deploy military with all their equipment," he said. "This comes out of our own military budget. … That's something we will look at a federal level."

Mayor Jim Watson says the city's infrastructure needs to be able to withstand the effects of climate change. 0:47

Sajjan and members of the military then crossed the barricaded bridge into Randolph Island, which has been cut off by floodwaters. But with the water receding, some residents weren't pleased to see the minister cross in a vehicle while they're not allowed.

"I've been putting up with it, but, you know, when you're stranded in a place you can't get out, that's not very nice," said Randolph resident John Knight. 

"You see when that water gets down low enough we should be able to drive back and forth … I understand they've got to bring in engineers to check it to see if it's stable. But they bring the army trucks across."

Al Mersereau, another resident, echoed the frustration.

Randolph resident Al Mersereau says he's frustrated with the barricade for domestic traffic to Randolph Island now that floodwaters have begun to recede. (CBC)

"I've been over there for a week and a lot of days I could have drove across that," he said. "So they shouldn't have put the barriers up? I can see them putting somebody there stopping the smaller vehicles, but if you've got a vehicle like a half-ton truck or something, you can get through that."

The road to Randolph Island could reopen to domestic traffic at some point Tuesday.

The closed section of the Trans-Canada Highway between Fredericton and Moncton could also reopen soon. The closed portion was reduced to just nine kilometres near Jemseg.  

Traffic is still being detoured through Saint John, but there's access for residents from either direction until Jemseg. 

Minister blames climate change

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan speaks to troops along with Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor in Grand Bay on Monday. (Kevin Bissett/Canadian Press)

At the new conference, Sajjan blamed climate change for this year's major flooding, as well as the historic flooding in 2018. He also pointed to British Columbia fighting floods and fires in 2018.

"We do need to start looking and working together across Canada at all levels of government, at what are the things that we need to start mitigating to making sure we're not just looking at a response," he said.  

Right now, more troops are deployed in Canada than overseas, Sajjan said. About 1,600 are deployed overseas and roughly 2,000 within Canada.

Getting back to normal

Emergency officials in New Brunswick are also keeping a close eye on the St. John River, as water levels continue to hover above flood stage in southern New Brunswick.

Greg MacCallum, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, said communities south of Fredericton will see high water levels over the next few day. He urged residents to stay vigilant.

"Things will return to normal but it will take some time to run its course," he said.  

The flooded road to Darlings Island seen on Saturday. The area is cut off when the Kennebecasis River, a tributary of the St. John River, rises above the road leading to the community. Residents are ferried to and from their homes by two boats from the provincial government and a local resident who volunteers his time and equipment. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Heavy rain over the weekend has forced water levels to sit above flood stage from Fredericton all the way to Saint John.

Water levels in Fredericton are expected to sit around 7.5 metres throughout the day. Flood stage is 6.5 metres in Fredericton.

Although water levels rose another 10 centimetres in New Brunswick's capital over the weekend, Downey said the river is expected to drop by Tuesday.

"Anywhere that's above flood stage, you have problems," said Geoffrey Downey, a spokesperson for the Emergency Measures Organization.

Who's still above flood stage?

In Maugerville, the water level is 6.6 metres. Flood stage is six metres.

The water level in Jemseg is steady at 6.1 metres. Flood stage is 4.3 metres.

When it comes to flooding, emergency officials are hopeful the worst is over. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

In Grand Lake, the water level is expected to sit at 6.3 metres. Flood stage in that area is five metres.

In Sheffield-Lakeville Corner, the water level is at 6.4 metres. Flood stage is 4.8 metres.

In Oak Point, the water level is 5.4 metres. Flood stage is 4.7 metres.

And in the Quispamsis-Saint John area, the water level is 5.2 metres. Flood stage is 4.2 metres.

The worst is over

Wayne Tallon, the director of Fredericton's Emergency Measures Organization, said he is optimistic the worst of the year flooding is over.

"The good news is that we hope that's the height it'll reach and it'll start going down," he said.

Tallon said inspectors with the province and Fredericton Fire Department will start assessing flooded areas to see the total amount of damage. He doesn't expect damage to be as bad as 2018.

Emergency officials say heavy rain is to blame for an increase in water levels. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

"We didn't get the really high winds," he said.

"The winds are the factor that causes a lot of damage because it  creates waves."

Residents could return home today

Keith McKay and Dee Branston use a canoe to carry food to a house on Jarvis Street in Fredericton last week. Photo: Stephen MacGillivray/The Canadian Press (Stephen MacGillivray/Canadian Press)

Bill Lawlor, the provincial director with the Red Cross, said 437 households and 1,095 individuals have registered with the agency. 

Kevin Clifford, the director of the Saint John EMO and the city's fire chief, said residents could be returning to their homes as early as Monday night.

He encouraged these people to remove anything wet or damaged by floodwater to prevent the spread of mould.

How high will the St. John River rise this spring, and does the Mactaquac Dam have anything to do with it? A New Brunswick flood, explained. 1:26

Residents should be removing these items within 48 hours. 

"After 48 hours, scientists have told us that the mould will take root in the homes," he said.

Clifford said emergency officials will assist in removing items from homes, many impacted by last year's flood as well.

Clifford said emergency officials assisted more than 50 homes in the Saint John area last year.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton and Connell Smith

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