Tag Archives: Floods

Dams and Dykes More Important with Climate Change

Sometimes it seems like those of us who deal with climate change are shouting, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling. We must run and tell the King!”

The reality is, the sky is falling. In the form of increased, localized rain storms. We had one just this past week. These storms are becoming more frequent as the ice caps melt and the planet warms. The water must go somewhere and part of somewhere is the atmosphere. Climate change is complicated. It can lead to more rain and more drought. We need to look beyond one cold winter and spring to the trends going back one hundred years.

In the 1900s, Niagara Falls froze and people would go out onto an ice hill below the falls. The falls froze partially this past winter for the first time in many years but that doesn’t mean that climate change isn’t happening. Our memories of the weather in past years are very fallible and it is fortunate that the staff at the GRCA keep accurate statistics on the river.

This spring, the Grand River dodged a bullet. The cold winter meant a snow pack two to three times higher than usual. Combined with a lot of rain and ice jams, the spring melt would have meant flooding much worse than the 1974 flood in Cambridge. Fortunately a slow melt of warm days and cool nights and warmish weather and cold spells (perfect maple syrup weather), meant everything went well. The reservoirs were full at one point but the experts at the GRCA made sure it was properly released.

This year is the 40th anniversary of the great flood of May 1974. Since that time, as outlined in the May 17th, Waterloo Region Record article, stopping flooding is a full time job at the GRCA. It should be pointed out that the Galt flood happened after the spring melt and was caused by a half month’s worth of rain falling on already sodden ground. Sounds a lot like this May. We can only hope to dodge another bullet.

Since that time, dykes and the river wall by the School of Architecture plus vigilant work at the Grand River dams, have prevented severe flooding in Waterloo Region. On December 28, 2008, it is estimated that without the reservoirs, the flow of the Grand River in Cambridge (Galt) would have reached the flow  at Galt during the 1974 flood.

This leads me to point out that, other than transit, the three main parties in this election are silent on Climate Change.

The GRCA recently got grants from the province to pay for half the cost of fixing the dykes in Cambridge. However, the program the money came from, the Water and Erosion Control Infrastructure Program, was recently cut back, though the province has said they will return the funds next year.

Conservation Ontario’s flood business case highlights needed investments in aging infrastructure, Conservation Authority flood operations, floodplain mapping and asset management strategies.

Conservation Ontario and the GRCA have been lobbying the opposition parties and the present government about the importance of conservation authorities for a number of years. Hopefully all parties will understand the importance of preserving dykes and dams in a time of climate change.

Useful Links

 GRCA website


May 1974 Flood

The Record article,

Youtube part one

Youtube part 2

One Day in May

Climate Change

Arctic ice is shrinking

new report shows that the Antarctic glaciers are calving.

into the atmosphere. As the temperature increases, more moisture is absorbed.

Climate change denied

Niagara Falls 2014

Niagara Falls 1900

I’m Chair of the Grand River Conservation Authority!

Just elected Chair of the Grand River Conservation Authority. But what is the GRCA, you ask and what does it do?

Here is the answer right from the website: “The Grand River flows 300 kilometres through southwestern Ontario from the highlands of Dufferin County to Port Maitland on Lake Erie.

The Grand River Conservation Authority manages water and other natural resources on behalf of 38 municipalities and close to one million residents.”

If you live in Southern Ontario you may know the GRCA best through it’s many parks such as Elora, Pinehurst, Rockwood and Byng Island. World wide you may know of it through its world class fly fishing.

http://www.grandriver.ca  A great website that includes realtime water flows.

Here are some of the issues facing the GRCA, that I raised during my acceptance speech.

The GRCA is a Canadian Heritage River and won the Theiss Riverprize as one of the best managed watersheds in the world. We have excellent staff who work hard with limited resources to keep our river system sound.

The health of our river system both in water quantity and quality is a pressing issue as we prepare for the effects of climate change and population growth.

Staff and stakeholders are presently working on the Grand River Watershed Management Plan and  Source Water Protection is moving ahead. We must remain vigilant that it includes a strong mandate to improve the health and safety of our river system. 

Climate change, as we can see from other places in the world, should concern us all. We need to make sure our governments understand the dangers of ignoring our infrastructure of  dams and flood controls. Population growth means more sewage with its problems. 

The next four years will bring continuing concerns about our budget .  We need more money from other levels of government as well as a hard look at our own budget.  We cannot protect the watershed without a viable budget.

The GRCA is now on Twitter and Facebook and we have many publications and contacts with the media. But more needs to be done to raise our profile and get our residents to understand the importance of the river  and our environment and the importance of our expensive water and wastewater systems. I have attended meetings on water with my constituents and have had to remind them that the Grand River is not the polluted river of the past.  One of the ways we can do this is by involving the public in our Strategic Planning Process.

Our Strategic planning process is key for the next four years. To simply lower or raise our budget is not enough. We need to have defined goals and objectives for the watershed, then a plan to fund it.  Not only do we need to hear from staff, board members, the public and stakeholders but we also must have ways of reporting back and measuring our success in meeting our outcomes. I have several ideas on how this may be done, as I know many of you do also.

Together we can keep the GRCA one of the best managed watersheds in the world.