By: The Working Forest Staff
TORONTO — As flooding season approaches, the Ontario government is making steady progress to implement Ontario’s Flooding Strategy which was released one year ago. The initiatives being adopted will help ensure that the public is better prepared for flooding events and flood risk is reduced for communities across the province.
“Building safer and healthier communities is one of our top priorities,” said John Yakabuski, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. “That is why our government continues to work collaboratively with all levels of government, industry, partner organizations, and the public to increase Ontario’s resiliency to flooding.”
While implementation of the Flooding Strategy is an ongoing process, Ontario has made continual progress on a range of activities. Improvements are being made to flood-plain mapping guidance and a multi-agency flood mapping technical team is being established to better identify hazard areas.
Additional progress or completion of Flooding Strategy initiatives over the last year include:
- Improvements made to the province’s emergency response system so that Ontario is better prepared to handle flooding events. The emergency management software will improve tracking, reporting, and management of incidents and emergencies. Newly introduced software will also support the engagement of municipal emergency management coordinators’ requests for assistance.
- Initiation of the provincial climate change impact assessment will provide a greater understanding of how climate change is expected to impact the province, including flood risk.
- Continuation of the province’s partnership with the federal government to provide high-quality water level and flow information for watercourses across the province, which helps to determine the potential for flooding and aids in the provision of early warning messages for flooding.
- Ongoing support for municipalities through the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund, which helps small, rural and northern communities invest in local infrastructure and asset management planning to address their priority needs, including flood protection and climate adaptation.
- Engagement with municipalities, watershed partners, and other key stakeholders in Muskoka, Magnetawan and Upper Ottawa river areas on key water management and operational decisions.
- Continuation of Ontario’s support, through participation on various committees of the International Joint Commission, which contributes to the ongoing management of water levels and flows in the Great Lakes.
“One important thing we learned from Ontario’s Special Advisor on Flooding and through developing the Flooding Strategy is that we can’t prevent floods, but we can prepare for them and try to mitigate damage,” said Minister Yakabuski. “As we make our way towards the spring freshet, our government wants to remind the people of Ontario that we all have a role in minimizing the impacts of flooding. The best thing you can do is be aware and prepared.”
The government is also improving disaster recovery assistance programs by investing up to $2 million in additional funding to extend the Build Back Better pilot project through 2023, and helping eligible municipalities rebuild infrastructure damaged by extreme weather to a higher standard through the Municipal Disaster Recovery Assistance
To find more information on how to prepare for floods and mitigate damage to property, which includes how to track floods and if your area is affected, please visit Ontario.ca/floods.
“More than ever, it is crucial that we work collaboratively to strengthen our resilience to climate change and its impacts, including flooding, as we experience more frequent and extreme weather events. Ontario’s Flooding Strategy builds on the action we’re taking through our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan, including ensuring conservation authorities are focused on their core mandate, establishing an advisory panel on climate change, and our climate change impact assessment plan to help Ontarians by providing practical solutions to environmental priorities,” said Jeff Yurek, Minister of Environment, Conservation, and Parks.
“Our government understands how important it is to improve community resiliency and response in the face of extreme weather events. Ontario’s disaster recovery assistance programs are key to helping our communities recover from natural disasters and helping people get back on their feet. Through our recent extension of the Build Back Better pilot project, we’re helping communities rebuild damaged infrastructure to make it more resilient to extreme weather and preventing future damage of roads and bridges,” said Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
“Our Provincial Emergency Operations Centre personnel have been closely engaged in the development and continued implementation of our strategy to reduce flood risks in Ontario. I encourage municipalities that have identified and assessed flooding as a risk to review and enhance their own emergency plans and coordinate those plans with their surrounding municipalities,” said Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General.
“Investments in local infrastructure projects, including flooding protection and climate adaptation projects, are central to our efforts to create safe, resilient and sustainable communities. Throughout this challenging year, we continue to invest in projects that protect Ontarians, strengthen communities, and support economic recovery,” said Laurie Scott, Minister of Infrastructure.
- Floods are the costliest natural hazard in terms of property damage in Ontario. They are typically caused by melting snow, ice jams, high lake levels, and heavy rains and thunderstorms.
- Under Build Back Better, municipalities are eligible to receive up to 15 percent above the estimated cost of rebuilding damaged infrastructure to make it more resilient to extreme weather and better protect our communities from the impacts of natural disasters.
- Recent changes to the Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians program make it simpler for applicants to claim emergency and evacuation expenses. We also expanded the eligibility criteria for small businesses which allows more owners-operators to qualify for assistance.
- Ontario is providing over $14.5 million to 26 municipalities and has paid over $13 million to 380 affected individuals, small businesses and not-for-profit organizations to support repair and recovery efforts related to historic flooding in spring 2019.