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Bracebridge remains under state of emergency as water levels rise

Last Updated Apr 25, 2019 at 9:20 am EDT

Water flows over the walkway, partially submerging park benches at Kelvin Grove Park in Bracebridge on April 25, 2019. CITYNEWS/Tammie Sutherland

A state of emergency remains in effect for Bracebridge over rising water levels and flooding concerns.

Rushing water filled the river running through the town, and that water washed out several local streets.

“Overnight water levels and flows have risen,” the town said in an update, and several areas of Bracebridge have been designated as “evacuation recommended” by the town.

On Thursday morning, Mayor Graydon Smith said it appeared the “rise has slowed down but might not have stopped.” He also cautions that it is possible to see several more days of very high water levels.

“We want to make sure everybody stays safe — that’s our number one priority,” Smith said.

The Town of Bracebridge has said that water levels on the North Branch Muskoka River are expected to exceed levels reached in 2013, when the region saw its worst flooding in a century.

Levels on the South Branch were approaching 2013 levels and were expected to increase in the coming days. Levels on Lake Muskoka were also expected to continue rising, while those on the Black River have already begun to subside.

“Sadly, we’re seeing a repeat of 2013, and maybe a little bit worse,” Bracebridge’s mayor said.

On Wednesday, officials in Bracebridge went door-to-door asking residents of a flood-prone neighbourhood to relocate. The town activated activated its emergency plan Tuesday afternoon after a number of local roads were washed out.

“If you are in an area that has flooded, or has flooded previously, you should be aware that this is likely to carry on — and that it may get worse,” Smith said in Wednesday.

He said emergency service workers would be canvassing in the Springdale Shores area, along the shores of the North Branch Muskoka River, to help people there leave their homes.

“We want to be clear to them that the situation they’re in isn’t a good one,” he said. “They probably figured that out on their own, but we know that there’s a lot of people that would prefer to ride these events out in their homes.”

Smith was joined at the news conference by Premier Doug Ford, whose family has a cottage in the area.

Ford said the province will do everything it can to support Bracebridge, as well as nearby Huntsville, and any other communities in the Muskoka Region that experience flooding this spring.

“We’ll spare no resources to support the affected areas,” Ford said. “But we’re here to observe, not to interfere.”

This comes the same week the Ontario conservation authorities said the provincial government cut their funding for flood management programs in half.

In a statement released Sunday, Conservation Ontario, which represents the province’s 36 conservation authorities, said impacts of the cuts would be felt immediately, particularly in smaller and more rural areas.

“Cutting natural hazards funding is particularly problematic right now in light of the fact that — like everywhere else — Ontario is experiencing stronger and more frequent flood events as a result of climate change impacts,” general manager Kim Gavine said in a statement.

“Using a watershed-based approach, conservation authorities deliver effective and cost efficient flood management programs across the province, partnering for many years with the province, municipalities and others.”

Ontario had given $7.4 million to the conservation authorities for that work, but they say that has now been reduced by 50 per cent.

 

Officials have also set up a staging area at the Bracebridge Memorial Arena for anyone displaced by the flooding.

Provincial police have also issued a warning to boaters in the Bracebridge area, saying a recent surge of meltwater has left a lot of debris floating in local lakes.