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Newfoundland and Labrador government prepares for dam break danger

The Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay council wants a full public inquiry into the recent flooding of the Churchill River. The flooding led to the evacuation of Mud Lake and damage in both towns.
The flooding of Mud Lake in 2017 has led the provincial government to commit $1 million for a flood risk study, which will be one of several in the province. — SaltWire Network file photo

Three studies were awarded to gauge the effects of climate change on the Humber and Exploits rivers

With the effects of climate change becoming all the more prominent, the provincial government is spending just under $1 million to study and prepare for large-scale floods.

“These flood risk maps will enable the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment to identify areas to be impacted by climate change as well as associated flood alert levels,” read a statement from the Department of Municipal Affairs.

“They will also show flood hazard areas along with depth and speed of water which will assist in the work of first responders.”

In late September, the province approved three plans.

A $378,146 contract was awarded to Wood PLC for a flood risk map for the Humber Valley. The study will map along the river from around Reidville to the mouth of the river in the Bay of Islands. Wood PLC will forecast flood potential for the entire area, as well as modelling river ice.

The goal is to for the government to be able to know how floods will behave when they occur, in an effort to help inform residents in the areas.

Annual water flow along the Humber, Exploits and Gander rivers, as illustrated in the province's Water Resources Atlas, published in 1992.
Annual water flow along the Humber, Exploits and Gander rivers, as illustrated in the province's Water Resources Atlas, published in 1992.

Elsewhere, $384,050 will be paid to Hatch Engineering for a study along the Exploits River. The map will cover the river as it weaves through Badger, Rushy Pond, Grand Falls-Windsor, and Bishop’s Falls. There will also be updates to the Badger Ice Progression Model, with plans for a real-time flood forecasting model in the area.

After major floods in 2003 and 2015 in Badger after ice dams forced water into the town, the updated data will help the town prepare for any future floods.

Finally, $199,967 will go to Golder Associates to study dams in municipalities across the province, and find out what would happen if any of them were to break.

The province has already studied maps across the province, recently running a full inventory of all the dams in the province. But that report didn’t take in municipal water supply dams, which the new report will address.

The province says the study of major dam breaks is pre-emptive, to allow towns to prepare in the event a major dam were to give way.

“The project will see the development of dam break flood maps that can be incorporated into community emergency response plans, help to quantify possible consequences of a dam failure, and confirm the Canadian Dam Association dam consequence classification used to determine the design criteria for the dam and the level of effort that dam owners should put into their dam safety management program,” read a statement from the department of Municipal Affairs.

Another $1 million has been committed for a flood-risk study along the Lower Churchill River in Labrador in response to concerns at Mud Lake after flooding last year.

An additional $200,000 per year has been budgeted for water and ice monitoring on the Humber and Exploits rivers.

All the costs are shared 50-50 between the province and federal government’s national disaster mitigation program. It’s expected the reports will be completed by March 2020.

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Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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