City already preparing for spring freshet

WEST CARLETON – City of Ottawa staff are putting on their rubbers and getting ready for the 2021 spring freshet.

Emergency and Protective Services general manager Anthony Di Monte outlined the 2021 approach to preparing for potential flooding as the spring freshet approaches in a memo to council today (Feb. 24) obtained by West Carleton Online.

“The city’s Spring Freshet Taskforce is actively preparing for the 2021 spring freshet,” Di Monte wrote in the memo. ‘Planning began in Fall 2020. The plan includes mobilizing a second Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) for the spring freshet supported by the Office of Emergency Management and the Public Works and Environmental Services Department (PWESD). This approach builds additional response capacity given the significant work of the City’s ongoing response to COVID-19 and the related vaccine distribution program.”

Di Monte says city staff has learned a lot over the last few years about preparing for the spring freshet and potential flooding. The Ottawa River watershed, at approximately 146,000 km2 is an extremely large river system that experiences flooding to some degree every spring. The Ottawa River watershed conveys water from many rivers including the Rideau River.

“The Spring Freshet Taskforce is leveraging the lessons learned from previous flood events in its preparations for the possibility of seasonal flooding,” Di Monte said. “The taskforce is actively working with external partners to monitor water levels, which are currently normal or close to normal along the Ottawa River basin. Accordingly, there is no river flooding in the forecast right now, understanding this could change as we approach the normal spring freshet period.

  • The work of the Freshet Taskforce also includes identifying opportunities for flood mitigation improvement, including:
  • Developing a communications strategy in advance of the spring freshet;
  • Developing educational materials on flooding preparedness;
  • Investigating revised operational and tactical procedures and pre-positioning assets, as required; and,
  • Exploring opportunities to purchase new flood mitigation/prevention assets.

“All planning activities include a COVID-19 lens with consideration for potential provincial orders, as applicable,” Di Monte said. “With this in mind, the city is planning for human and other resource requirements associated with possible flooding. With this planning underway, the City will be ready to coordinate multiple responses concurrently, if required.”

In the meantime, seasonal flood preparations are also underway and include the Rideau River Flood Control operations. As in past years, the city in partnership with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority has begun ice breaking and clearing operations along the Rideau River and will continue into March. This work will allow water to flow unrestricted and to alleviate possible spring flooding in flood-prone areas.

Regular updates will be provided on Key objectives for these updates will be to provide information to assist residents in creating or refining their personal flood preparedness plans, to increase awareness of operational activities and to share other resources available to residents living in flood prone areas.

“Council will be kept apprised of significant developments relating to the 2021 spring freshet,” Di Monte said.