Commentary: We know the John Street area floods regularly, so why has it taken us this long to take action?



We have known for over 50 years that the area around John Street, and on the other side of the river around the Town Dock, will flood. So with all this time to think and take action, why is it that no action has been taken? The businesses in that area have to resort to some sandbags and domestic sump pumps. With climate change, the problem will only get bigger.

John Street could have been built to be like a dyke, collecting storm drains to a sump fitted with some large low lift dewatering pumps so that the entire area never flooded again. The good folks in the army engineers at New Orleans could tell you exactly what to do here, probably their advice would be free.
Similarly, a relatively low but permanent concrete barrier along the front of the other stores could be built. Alternately the basements of these stores could be made such that a flood would not matter. Move the electrics out of harm’s way, make changes to plumbing if necessary and do not try to use this space for anything flood sensitive.

There could be an allowance in the tax assessments such that this space was not such a burden to the stores that they felt a need to try to utilize the space in the first place. These ideas are all relatively simple and cheap compared to the massive cost of rebuilding good old King William Street and Main Street.
As we all know our area dams are not primarily for “flood control” but maybe some could be modified to work better for this purpose?  Maybe a few more dams could be added to the system for this reason and collectively this could help just a little bit so that the flooding was not quite so bad?

All the dams in the area could be fitted with some form of electric generation system. Don’t leave this to some small, poorly funded private organization with a cute name (I think it was Bullfrog Power that was looking at the Locks?). This could all be done properly by Hydro One or OPG.  The plants could be modular, portable, quiet to operate and could be ultimately placed at almost every significant drop in elevation. I’m willing to bet that if this was done and properly connected to the grid we could generate quite a high percentage of the energy needed in our area with virtually no detrimental effects.

The plants could be decoratively hidden and most people would never even know they were there. The revenue could flow to the local and Provincial treasuries, thus reducing our taxes in the future and decreasing our carbon emissions.

As a country, we could do this. As a responsible country, we should be doing this. Instead of rinky-dink carbon-tax rebates that we all know are nothing more than a bribe for the vote at the next election, these carbon-tax funds could be put to better use making green, sustainable water-powered electricity. It does require good planning at every level and a long-term commitment, not a four-year election cycle.

Net and Virtual Net metered solar systems, being made much easier to have and connect to, would also have a good impact, although these would have nothing to do with flooding of course.  We could do a lot better here too as a society.

Brian Tapley attended school at Port Cunnington, then Irwin Memorial in Dwight, then Huntsville High, and then Queen’s University, where he graduated 1973 as a Mechanical Engineer.
He worked for Kimberly-Clark for a short time before ‘retiring’ to help his aging parents run the family resort, Bondi Village Cottage Resort in Dwight.

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  1. Michael Petropulos on

    “Action”? WHAT ACTION??? Until something actually gets done it’s just more of the same old “TALK”. I asked the Town repeatedly, over 25 years ago, to look into installing a back flow prevention valve. I’m still waiting for a call from Mayor Scott who promised to call me about it in a week, back on April 26th. I wouldn’t be thinking about it twice now were it not for the fact that practically every stake holder in the area, EXCEPT for me, was invited to participate and offer input when the Ryerson grad students were preparing their conceptual plans for the area, last summer.

    A few years back we noticed that the water in our lot was pooling and draining very slowly from our property after normal summer rains. I sent emails and photographs of the Town’s storm water catch basin, located on Cann Street, to Bob Hall, which detailed a 50+ year old, broken concrete catch basin that was leaking stones and aggregate into the line which was more than ½ full of gravel! I had to threaten litigation back then to get anything done and even then they chose NOT to replace it, opting instead to just flush the line! Even when I originally installed our man hole, storm drain, and catch basin, back in 1993, I had the same pooling problem, only until I could finally convince Bob McDonald, the man in charge of roads and sewers at the time, to investigate, who actually did! Apparently the Town’s storm drain out take was pointing up river, forcing the moving water into the storm drain, preventing our water from properly draining, probably for years! Funny thing is that once it was properly aligned, things actually returned to normal for a few years.

    Don’t hold your breath folks. Even though the Town of Huntsville has collected millions of dollars in realty tax revenues from the owners in this area, they have always been negligent in their duty to adequately provide and maintain the basic infrastructure that would have prevented so much damage now and throughout the years; 100 year flood or not. I, for one, have had enough of the finger pointing and rhetoric. Please, don’t you dare point your fingers at me any longer!


      Mike, I believe it was Bill MacDonald you are referring to, and yes he did get things done.

  2. Bill Wright on

    Some say the flooding of beer pond is the result of water backing up in the drain from Brendale square to the river. Perhaps a fast solution would be to fit a four or six foot high square standpipe into the drain whenever the river shows signs of rising to flood levels. This would, of course, mean that the drain line would have to withstand a pressure of maybe 2 psi. Yes, there might be some leakage at the standpipe, but it would not be pump overpowering. For sure a much cheaper alternative to installing a back flow valve. Then it would take serious level increases, breaching the river bank, to flood the area.

    • Rob Millman on

      Bill, I had never thought of a standpipe in any other context than water supply: very innovative and cost-effective. And Brian, I concur completely with the thrust of your article. It was closely reasoned (and I’m a Queen’s alumnus as well). I think, however, that your estimate of the amount of energy potentially produced from several mini-dams is extremely generous. Also, you are too optimistic in thinking that assessments in the area would ever be reduced. “Caveat emptor”: many of us have purchased imprudently; but nobody is standing in line to bail us out.
      Thank you Bob, for clarifying that it was Bill MacDonald who was head of the Public Works Department at the time. Bill never got adequate credit for his work at the Town (and for the District before that).

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