Jane’s Walk this Saturday May 3rd.

Jane's Walk2014-GB

On Saturday, May 3rd at 5:30 pm, a ‘Jane’s Walk’ will feature the Humber Trail between Lions Park and the weir in Raymore Park. To commemorate the upcoming 60th anniversary of Hurricane Hazel this year, the emphasis will be on the storm, its effects and after-effects on the environment both natural and human. There is no charge for this event.

Some of the stops along the way will be:

Stop 1: Lawrence Avenue Bridge

The effects of Hurricane Hazel and its deluge of water on the bridge and surroundings.

Stop 2: Lion’s Park / Weston Fairground

Stop 3: Raymore Foot Bridge

The history of the footbridge that once existed at this point and its current successor.

Stop 4: Raymore Drive (across bridge)

The ground where 36 people lost their lives; the role of the old bridge. View traces of the settlement that was destroyed.

Stop 5: Raymore Park

The aftermath of Hazel and the organization set up to acquire and manage flood plain land.

Stop 6: Raymore Park dam

The fish ladder and migrating trout. The future of weirs along the Humber.

Stop 7: Chapman Valley Park / Humber Creek

The flooding that occurred at the top of this creek on July 8 2013, and the impact development has had on rivers across the city

Stop 8:

Urban river valleys, the Greenbelt, and the upcoming staff report and vote in city council to add the Humber, Don, and Etobicoke Creek to the Greenbelt.

  • Option 1: Retrace our steps along the Humber path,
  • Option 2: walk through the streets, past the wooden church at Scarlett and Kingdom, down Raymore Drive, crossing back over Raymore bridge and ending back up at Lion’s Park.

Walk Leaders:

Mary Louise Ashbourne (Weston Historical Society)
Gaspar Horvath (TRCA)
Roy Murray (Humber Watershed Alliance)
Shelley Petrie (Friends of the Greenbelt)
Michael Cook (Lost Rivers)

Meeting point: Car park at Lawrence Avenue and Little Avenue (Cruickshank Park) at 5:30pm.

Mike Sullivan presents petition for better sewers

Let’s be honest: Sewers are not a sexy issue. But did you know that strong storms in 20 years will dump three times as much rainfall in Toronto as they did in the past? That incredible storm we had this year was a spring shower compared to what’s coming. In future, we can expect a third more rain than that diluvian drenching—166mm of rain will be the new normal. This summer we got 126 mm.

Canadian Underwriter magazine has an excellent article on the petition our MP, Mike Sullivan, presented to the House of Parliament asking for federal funding for improved sewers.

The petition, the article says, has been signed by more than 1000 people, and asks the feds to “immediately take action necessary to fund urgent municipal infrastructure projects to prevent property damage such as that suffered by the residents of the City of Toronto on July 8th 2013.”

It’s a shame the feds will flush it.

 

Sullivan: Harper government ignoring Weston flood damage.

York South-Weston MP Mike Sullivan spoke in Parliament today about the flooding in York South-Weston and revealed that despite the damage caused on July 8th, the Federal government has failed to offer any meaningful assistance.

Mr. Speaker, this past summer, the City of Toronto suffered what is described as a once-in-a-hundred-years storm. Thousands of homes were flooded, families lost cherished possessions and spent millions rebuilding. Neighbourhoods in my riding of York South—Weston were among the hardest hit.

I visited the flooded streets to offer comfort and assistance. I saw tremendous resilience from the very young to the very old. I also saw the aftermath of the current Conservative government’s neglect of our city and its critical infrastructure needs, such as improved sewer systems, some of which are over 100 years old.

With climate change, severe storms like the one that hit Toronto on July 8 will become more frequent. The Conservative government needs to get off the sidelines and start investing to prevent widespread flooding from happening with each big storm.

I have written on these matters to the Minister of the Environment and Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs, but the response did not offer any assistance.

This is a prime example of the climate change adaptation the government talks about. The time to help is now. My constituents not only expect it, they demand it.

Sullivan is organizing a petition to the Federal government requesting infrastructure funding for our inadequate and outdated sewer systems. Once printed off and signed, petitions can be folded, stapled closed and mailed for free to:

Mike Sullivan MP
House of Commons
Ottawa
ON
K1A 0A6

Pained postdeluvian politicians push portly plumbing

The epic storm of this past summer continues to have effects. At this week’s City Council meeting, politicians decided to ask the upper levels of government for money and help. They also asked Toronto Water to come up with a plan for all of Toronto to deal with floods like we experienced.

The city is asking the province and country for financial assistance and help with programs for future disaster mitigation that “reflect the reality of climate change” (is that pointed?). Council is also asking for the province to again go Dutch on the Conservation Authority programs for flooding.

They also asked city staff to consider expanding the basement flooding protection efforts across the whole city and to figure out how to enforce the downspout disconnection plan. Finally, they would like a tally of the vulnerable houses around Black Creek.

July 8 storm still making waves.

Reading between the lines of a letter from Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to City Manager, Joe Penachetti, the question from Joe appears to have been, ‘OK, unlike Mississauga, the City of Toronto screwed up and missed the deadline to claim some disaster relief from the province. Please bend the rules – oh, and while you’re at it look for any other money that we could tap into’.

The reply from Deputy Minister Laurie LeBlanc says ‘no’ in the nicest possible way, pointing out that Toronto failed to act within the two-week deadline. If you’ve ever seen episodes of Yes Minister, you’ll really appreciate the talent required to enclose an upright middle finger inside a letter.

While Toronto keeps the province and much of the country awash in cash, rules apparently cannot be broken.

Residents’ group plans flooding lawsuit

A Mount Dennis residents’ group is planning a lawsuit against the city and the Toronto Region Conservation Authority. An organizer says that they are suing based on the city’s mismanagement of the storm sewer system.

The group is now looking for members and people who have legal or technical expertise. If you want to be a part, drop me a line, and I’ll forward your information along.

The medium is the message.

The flood information meeting held on Wednesday July 31st at Archbishop Romero High School was a follow-up to the one held on July 19th at York Council Chambers. Again, almost 200 residents filled the gym. It was immediately apparent that steps had been taken to control their response. For whatever reason, a uniformed police officer was posted at the back of the room. If Ms. Nunziata felt threatened by this crowd of grandparents, parents, and children, she must lead a very sheltered life.

The meeting format was organized by Ward 11 resident, Sean McConnell. He began the proceedings by restricting questions to ‘only those who live in the area and whose homes have been flooded’.

Organizer Sean McConnell sets the ground rules.
Organizer Sean McConnell sets the ground rules.

Once the introductions were over, the meeting began with a series of anonymous softball questions allegedly emailed from residents. Whether the authors of these questions were in the audience or not seemed irrelevant. A phalanx of City of Toronto and TRCA officials was on hand to provide responses. After these had been answered, Councillor Nunziata talked about what the city was doing  to address residents’ concerns. Residents were then permitted to come to the microphone to seek answers.

Representatives from the city, TRCA and Granite Claims listen to residents.
Representatives from the city, TRCA and Granite Claims listen to residents.

Some interesting points were raised during the audience questions.

One resident’s basement flooded on the 7th July, the day before the storm and he was told by a city representative that the sewer was blocked. The resident showed proof that a city employee had reported the matter in spite of statements to the contrary from the official at the meeting.

A resident shows proof that sewers were blocked the day before the flood.
A resident shows proof that sewers were blocked the day before the flood.

City Council has passed a motion to ‘look at opportunities to advance’ a ‘sewer overflow control’ public meeting scheduled for the fall of 2013.

Until the assessment is done it will take 3-5 years to get a solution implemented.

Quick fixes such as a berm along Black Creek might provide a temporary solution.

The city has ended its special garbage collection ( information to the contrary was given during the meeting).

Some residents reported that Backflow prevention valves had failed. Apparently they require a homeowner inspection every three months and flushing out twice annually otherwise they are liable to fail.  There is a proposal to increase funding to allow a greater subsidy but the process is complicated, expensive and probably beyond the reach of many. As one resident pointed out, the unpleasant task of inspection and flushing will likely be neglected too.

Another council motion has requested consideration of an increase in backflow valve subsidies.

If your backflow valve failed, the city says your contractor is responsible, not the city.

If residents think that city negligence caused damage to their properties, they should make a claim.

Backflow valves and a sump pump on display.
Backflow valves and a sump pump on display.

The bridge on Humber Boulevard that crosses the Black Creek concrete trench is irreparably damaged and will be replaced.

The City had an opportunity to apply to the province for state of emergency funding but unlike neighbouring Mississauga, failed to do so before the deadline.

Here is a list of basement flooding protection projects taking place in Toronto from 2013-2016. Nothing is planned for Ward 11.

Laura Albanese confirms that unlike Mississauga, Toronto failed to act before the deadline.
MPP Laura Albanese confirms that unlike Mississauga, Toronto failed to act before the deadline.

Towards the end of the meeting I was challenged by Sean, one of MPP Laura Albanese’s staffers, stating that I would need signed releases for the photographs I was taking. Luckily, not having been born recently (or even yesterday) I was able to help the young man with this particular gap in his education.

Albanese staffer Sean possibly obtaining legal advice on photography.
Laura Albanese staffer Sean possibly listening to legal advice on photography in public meetings.

No doubt Ms. Nunziata considers the meeting a success. Nobody shouted at her and her message was heard clearly. The message was, ‘we’re doing all we can to help’. If only that was true.

The fact is that residents have been let down by a lack of action. The flooding of basements in certain areas of the city has been public knowledge for years – for example this map from 2005 clearly shows chronic flooding areas (Ward 11, areas 6 and 4) in Weston and around Cordella Avenue. If planning had started in 2005, the problem would have been solved by now.

Politicians have focussed on more glamorous projects and on keeping property taxes low. If anyone needs evidence of the neglect of sewers, all they have to do is walk through Lions Park where a large sewer runs alongside the Humber. On most days the park smells like, …well, a flooded basement.