Nova Scotia

Time and tide factors in Sydney flood plain remediation

As the Wash Brook in central Sydney, N.S., breached its banks again in a heavy rainfall on Monday, some people asked what had become of promises to protect their properties from future flooding.

CBRM engineering director says work proceeds as money is available

The banks of Wash Brook in Sydney, N.S., overflowed Monday due to heavy rain. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

As the Wash Brook in central Sydney, N.S., breached its banks again in a heavy rainfall on Monday, some people were asking what had become of previous promises to protect their properties from future flooding.

A disastrous flood on Thanksgiving Day 2016 was called at the time a "once-in-every-200-year" phenomenon.

Several houses in Sydney were ruined in the floodwaters and were eventually demolished.

In the intervening months, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality put a great deal of effort into remediating areas of the Wash Brook that were particularly prone to overflowing, said the director of engineering and public works, Wayne MacDonald.

No permanent fix

Not all of the trouble spots have been addressed yet and MacDonald said there's a limit to what can be done.

"All of the study that we've been working on associated with the Wash Brook talks about a couple of areas, and the Brookland Street, Townsend Street area would be the low reaches," he said.

A truck makes its way down a flooded street in Sydney, N.S. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

"It's really impacted by tides, as well. So during the storm on Monday, there was a high tide around mid-afternoon. The water was still high while the tide was dropping, and lowered as the tide lowered in the evening."

On Monday afternoon, home and business owners in that area saw water breach the banks of the Wash Brook and begin creeping a metre or more onto their properties.

MacDonald says there are things that can and have been done, and his department will do more.

Extra money needed

"We include in the operating budget each year an allowance for repair to some of the banks and the revetments along the edges of the brooks [in CBRM]," he said, "and since the flood of 2016, we've spent a considerable amount of money working across CBRM but particularly in the Wash Brook area, and that is going to continue."

But annually, the amount of remediation and infrastructure repairs is dependent on sharing costs with the provincial and federal government, when targeted programs are available.

Rising water surrounds St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Church on Cabot Street in Sydney, N.S. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

The National Disaster Mitigation Program, managed by Infrastructure Canada, and the Flood Risk Infrastructure Investment Program (FRIIP) co-ordinated by the Nova Scotia Department of Municipal Affairs, both provided money after the 2016 flood.

MacDonald said his department is planning its next work at the Wash Brook as municipal budget talks get underway.

"We are planning for another application to the provincial government for additional monies under the FRIIP program to continue moving forward on recommended mitigations for the Wash Brook area," he said.

"The best that we can do is to try and improve how the Wash Brook reacts to precipitation events."

With files from Gary Mansfield