Friday, April 26, 2013

The Minden Flood

I'll resume my normal blogging in a couple of days. But the flooding in this part of Ontario needs documenting...

First of all, in deference to those of my readers from areas harder hit by the forces of nature, I recognize that this flood in the Haliburton Highlands of Ontario does not hold a candle to events like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the Japanese Tsunami or even the regularly occurring tornados in the US midwest or Southwest. There was no direct loss of life due to the event to my knowledge and although the damage is widespread, the biggest effect is going to be on peoples' pocketbooks.

In the news, insurance companies are claiming this to be an "act of God" and therefore they will not consider damage claims. There was an interesting letter to the Editor of the Haliburton Highlander that pointed out the Hand of Man was involved: this flooding, at least in the Highlands, is largely due to "conscious decision making by the Ministry of Natural Resources and others associated with the provision of water to the Trent Severn Waterway", according to the letter writer.

For those unfamiliar with the TSW, it's described by Wikipedia (link) as, "The Trent–Severn Waterway is a canal route traversing Southern Ontario cottage country, and a linear National Historic Site of Canada administered by Parks Canada. It was formerly used for industrial and transportation purposes, and is maintained for recreational boating and tourism." It's almost 400 km long and a big bone of contention for residents and cottagers in the Highlands whose expensive lakefront shorelines are affected by huge water level changes every year as dams are opened and closed to maintain navigable water levels in the canal. That said, some of that water is used for hydroelectric and irrigation purposes as well.

Minden is a small community: I don't know the absolute numbers but I think around 4000 permanent residents and that swells to as much as 70,000 in the summer. A large percentage of the full-timers are retirees, elderly, on fixed incomes, so their property damages will be devastating for them. Most of the cottage structures won't be affected because they're typically built higher up, away from water level.

To give you an idea, here's a photo of my dock. Normally the ramp from the shore to the dock slants steeply downwards, so much so that you have to watch your step walking down it.

The end of the dock is normally in about 3' of water. In August, that drops to less than 1'. I'm guessing it's at around 6' now. The building with the blue door in the background is NOT a boathouse, it's a storage shed/workshop. And yes, that's ice still on the lake that you see in the distance. More melting to come.
Here are a couple of other shots I took at the Minden Wildwater Preserve. This is a designated recreational white water area, but it's upstream of the main Hydro dam which had water flowing over the top yesterday. If it were to go, Minden would disappear.

You can see that the dam is open: it looks like 2' of log boom has been removed (sitting on top of the dam). The whitewater is higher than I've ever seen it. There's a depth gauge that normally sits at about 2-3 feet, sometimes up to 5 or 6 feet deep during white water events (the Pan-Am Games will be held here in 2015). The top of the gauge is marked to 10': and the entire gauge is at least two feet under water. That damaged platform at left is a viewing/judging stand for the kayak races.

Sometimes I sit at the base of this tree to photograph a race. Not today! 

Anyway, here's a link to a gallery of images I shot in Minden today. The good news is, the water's down about a foot. The bad news is, more rain on the way and there's a rumour that the MNR will be opening some upstream dams in the next couple of days. I sure hope not.

The liquor store in downtown Minden. 
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