As flood waters receded Tuesday in central Nova Scotia, a municipal leader raised the cry for action to defend his communities against the East Coast’s frequent and furious storms.
Deputy mayor Charles Cox said it’s frustrating to tour Truro and see ripped up roads, washed-out culverts and water-damaged businesses.
In his municipal ward on the banks of the Salmon River, Cox said there has been three floods in 10 years.
“The people are tired of it, council is tired of it, it has to be resolved one way or another, whether we put a levee in to take some of the pressure off. … Somebody has to come up with a solution for this,” he said.
“I want to find out the best solution as quickly as possible and get the damn thing done.”
The town experienced similar flooding in 2003 when the homes of 125 people were evacuated. Winter flooding in February 2008 also caused damage in the town.
Parts of Truro and the adjoining village of Bible Hill were flooded on Monday after heavy rainfall. Environment Canada says 100 to 120 millimetres of rain fell in a 24-hour period — more than the usual monthly total — as moisture from tropical storm Leslie fed a separate trough of low pressure along the Atlantic coast.
The rainfall turned the Salmon and North rivers into torrents, with the muddy waters spilling over a major dike in the town and damaging a county-owned dike northwest of the community
Provincial and municipal officials are still awaiting a tally of the damage to roads and bridges, said Bob Taylor, the mayor of Colchester County.
“Culverts are out … some bridges may be no longer safe. Some homes are damaged,” said Taylor, adding he believes it will cost more than $1 million to make the repairs.
One expert says there are reasons for concern about future storms.
Tim Webster, a research scientist at the Nova Scotia Community College’s centre of geographic sciences in Middleton, said computer modelling done several years ago by the school shows flooding of about 13 metres over sea level if a major storm surge combined with high tides.
Webster said if a storm surge from the Bay of Fundy were mixed with heavy rainfall, “it (flooding) could be worse” than Monday’s events.
In Truro, Taylor said other studies have shown various factors are leading to the frequent flooding, including clear cutting of forests in highlands around the community.
There is also a need for the river to be dredged in spots, he added, but municipal budgets can’t pay for dike upgrades and dredging.
“It’s big bucks … and we’d have to have a lot of help,” Taylor said.
Marion MacAulay, a manager with Nova Scotia’s Agriculture Department, said the province maintains 241 kilometres of agricultural dikes on an annual budget of about $1 million.
But she said that’s not enough for a major upgrade that would help towns like Truro cope with rising sea levels.
“It’s a very large project and it’s more than a Department of Agriculture situation, and we’re hoping we’ll have some discussions with other interested parties to see if we can come up with a plan for going forward.”
Premier Darrell Dexter said he has asked his officials to meet with the municipal leaders and develop ways to reduce flooding damage.
“We’re going to have start planning on a budget basis for the changes that need to take place.” he said in an interview. “The province, the municipality and the federal government as well.”
Robert Levine, the Emergency Measures Organization co-ordinator for Colchester County, said commercial developments have continued without considering the impact on the flood plain.
“It (flooding) is more frequent and it has to do with a lot of things. People are clearcutting, people are building more subdivisions, the run-off is massive compared to what it was years ago,” he said.
He expects a meeting of the flood plain committee will be called in the weeks to come, with the goal of developing ways to hold back the waters when the next deluge arrives.
“This is not something we can let go. This (flood) just proved it,” he said.