Owners of flooded Vale Island properties in N.W.T. calling for drainage system
Beaver dam part of the problem, but climate change could also be a factor, says MLA
The owner of a guest house on the northern edge of Vale Island in Hay River, N.W.T., says flooding in the area has been so bad, she hasn't been booking new customers since the spring.
Jane Groenewegen says she's been operating the Harbour House for more than 35 years, and this is the first time accessing the building has required a pair of rubber boots.
"There's probably been a couple feet of water under the building ever since the spring when the snow melted, and it hasn't gone anywhere," she said. "It's literally flowing over our front yard."
Groenewegen's son, Jordan Groenewegen, built a home next to the guest house in 2008.
They both said Saturday the water is like nothing they've ever seen before — overflowing the south ditch along 106 Avenue, creating rivulets across the gravel road, soaking property and the public parking lot of the nearby beach on its path to Great Slave Lake.
"A good chunk of my yard is under water," said Jordan, adding that about 10 property owners on the island are impacted by the water. "I believe the problem is that there isn't proper drainage, and typically that hasn't been a problem because Hay River is a dry place in the summer."
But this year, anecdotally, he's noticed more rain than usual.
Rocky Simpson, MLA for Hay River South, said he visited the area Saturday morning. He said the first step should be removing a beaver dam that's blocking drainage into the lake.
"It's a cause, there's no doubt about that," he said. "To what extent, I'm not sure."
But, he added, this is the second year in a row that water levels have been high.
"Maybe we're talking climate change and maybe what's got to happen is the territorial government has to look at it and realize this is the way of the future," he said.
Solutions could include making berms more effective, routing the water in a different way, or installing flood gates, Simpson said. He said the territorial and federal government should invest in the issue "to ensure that we don't constantly have damage."
Clouds of mosquitoes
Both Groenewegens said their assets are built up from the ground and haven't been damaged by the water — but it is impacting the enjoyment of and access to their respective properties. Jane Groenewegen said she's been booking customers at her business's other guest houses instead.
One of the biggest irritants so far, they said, are the mosquitoes that are breeding in the standing water.
"There's literally clouds of mosquitoes if there's no breeze," said the younger Groenewegen, who doesn't feel comfortable leaving his dogs outside anymore. "It's kind of cruel and unusual punishment to leave them."
"I'd like to see the town come up with a plan that's not going to take ten years of talks and studies. I'd like to see them come up with a plan to try and create better drainage for Vale Island," he said, adding that the municipality has been out a few times this year to pump out water in the parking lot of the nearby public beach.
"If this is the new normal, if this is the new reality of being down here, then the town needs to put this on the highest priority of their agenda to come up with an engineered plan to deal with this," said his mother.
With files from John Van Dusen