CBRM to spend $4M to alleviate large-scale destructive flooding

Parts of Sydney were badly flooded in 2016 when 225 millimetres of rain fell. Some homes and buildings had to be demolished.

Municipality looking to build structures to control water flow, water-retention pond

The 2016 flood left people canoeing down the street. (@caperguy33/Twitter)

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality will spend about $4 million over five years to try to reduce large-scale destructive flooding.

Parts of Sydney's south end were badly flooded on Thanksgiving Day 2016 when 225 millimetres of rain fell.

Some homes and buildings had to be demolished.

Flooding won't be eliminated

The new measures will help control water that floods Sydney's Wash Brook during heavy rains.

Structures to control the flow of water will be installed at two lakes that feed the brook.

A large retention pond will also be constructed in the area of the Baille Ard Trail system.

But Wayne MacDonald, the municipality's engineering director, warned that flooding can't be eliminated — especially in the lowest areas.

"The lower reaches of the Wash Brook are susceptible to the actual tide effects," said MacDonald. "You can store as much water in those areas, but you're affected by high and low tides."

Some measures better than others

CBCL, which provides consulting on engineering and environmental services, delivered that message to council this spring in a report on measures to control floods.

In May, Alexander Wilson, CBCL's senior water resources engineer, outlined 15 measures that could help ease flooding in Sydney's prone areas.

Of those measures, 11 are considered of "low" effectiveness. One measure would have a medium impact and three would have "high" effectiveness.

'There's little that can be done'

But Wilson told council that in the lowest areas of the city that flood every time there's a significant rainfall there's little that can be done.

"The natural setting of the area is such that it floods naturally and all the work that has been done over the years to try to improve things has helped somewhat," he said. "But the reason why it still floods on such a regular basis is there's very little that can be done."

At Tuesday's meeting, council formally approved moving ahead with the three mitigation measures that are seen as most effective.

But councillors cautioned the measures will not eliminate the problem.

"I just want people to know that we are not fixing the flooding issue," said Coun. Earlene MacMullin.

"We're spending over $4 million to do that. But I don't want people to walk away in the false hopes that, 'Oh, they're finally taking care of it.'"

More funding will be sought

The provincial government has already committed $217,000 for a portion of the work.

MacDonald said the municipality will also seek other government funding.

He said money will also be set aside for a public education program to advise homeowners on steps they can take to protect their properties from flood damage.

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Wendy Martin

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Wendy Martin has been a reporter for nearly 30 years. Her first job in radio was at the age of three, on a show called Wendy's House on CFCB Radio in Corner Brook, N.L. Get in touch at wendy.martin@cbc.ca