Toronto's budget $5M short on repair money for spring flood damage
Councillor rips plan to delay repairs, calling it 'not good enough'
Toronto's waterfront parks suffered more than $7.4 million worth of flood damage last summer, but this year's budget punts most of the repair work into the future.
The preliminary budget only includes $2 million to fix flood damage, with the rest of the work being put off until at least 2019, according to city documents.
"That's not good enough," said Coun. Paula Fletcher, whose ward includes the Port Lands and the Leslie Street Spit.
Fletcher says she'll push for the entire amount — money documents say would be spent on everything from repairing paths to adding permanent water pumps on Toronto's islands — to be included in this year's financial plans, which are currently being debated at public events across the city.
Lake Ontario hit its highest levels in 100 years last spring, creating problems across the length of the city's waterfront while also severely damaging the islands. The flooding began with April's snowmelt and was made worse by an exceptionally rainy spring. By May 27, the lake was 43 centimetres above its pre-flood level.
Parks, Forestry and Recreation officials declined an interview about the budget shortfall, although the documents point out several emergency projects were completed last year along with the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA).
"Staff continue to work on determining the full extent of the damage and remediation costs," parks spokesperson Jane Arbour said in an email statement.
That complete list of damages isn't expected until fall of 2018, at which time staff also hope to present a series of flood mitigation strategies, although Mayor John Tory's executive committee is expected to get more information at its next meeting.
Some repair projects already complete
However, some steps are being taken in case this is another wet summer. In December, the city spent $200,000 to raise the Leuty Lifeguard Station, a Beach icon, by more than a metre.
Nancy Gaffney, TRCA's waterfront specialist, says many priority projects — the ones people would notice at places like Humber Bay Park, Marie Curtis Park, Woodbine Beach and the Scarborough Bluffs — have actually been completed, even though some had to wait until early October when the water levels finally receded enough to expose some of the damage.
Still, there's work to be done.
"There are a few parks that have shoreline issues," she said.
The shoreline repairs, Gaffney says, may take more time to do. Some work will have to wait until the spring, when scuba divers can get in the water and inspect eroding shores near Bluffer's Park and along the western Beaches breakwall.
"We want to make sure that we're not just doing band-aid fixes everywhere," Gaffney said.
Toronto's waterfront the 'cottage' of the city
Gaffney says the TRCA and city are working together on budgeting to pay for these fixes. Fletcher says she'll be asking questions about why the full $7 million isn't in this year's budget.
"The beaches and the waterfront are the cottages for people that can't have cottages," she said.
"You can always go to the island, you can go to the beach, you can spend the day in our beautiful city."
If you live near Toronto's waterfront, or on the island, and are seeing damage still there after last spring's flood please contact reporter John Rieti at firstname.lastname@example.org.