2nd Class Action meeting scheduled re: Spring Flooding

The legal requirements for a $900 million Class Action lawsuit against the MNR over the 2016 Spring flooding is moving forward this week in Toronto.

Another public meeting on the issue has been scheduled for this coming Sunday in Muskoka.

WHAT: A group of concerned Muskoka region residents have joined together to file the lawsuit against the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to recover the cost of property damage from the spring 2016 flooding.

WHO: Residents with properties on Lake Muskoka, Lake Joseph and Lake Rosseau that suffered property damage during record breaking spring 2016 flooding are working together to file the suit. Residents that suffered property damage are urged to attend the meeting. Property owners who are concerned that spring flooding will continue should also attend.

WHY: The suit takes the position that the Ministry of Natural Resources was negligent and mismanaged water levels throughout the Muskoka watershed leading to extensive flooding and property damage. The suit contends that the damage was largely avoidable and that the water levels in the Muskoka watershed were not managed as required by the Muskoka River Water Management Plan.

WHEN: Sunday, September, 18 at 9:30 a.m.

WHERE: Port Carling Community Centre, 3 Bailey St, Port Carling, ON P0B 1J0

Smith wants water level concerns raised with MNR

Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith is urging further dialogue with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) about water levels in Muskoka.

During Wednesday’s council meeting, he said this year’s atypical Spring brought with it nasty flashbacks of the massive area flooding of 2013. While it wasn’t as bad as back then, he said many property owners were still affected this year and that lots of the damage happened to lake boathouses due to a combo of ice, wind and high water.

While the MNR was proactive in getting warnings out about pending flood conditions, Smith says some residents still have questions for the ministry about lake water levels.

The Mayor says the Town should make the ministry aware of its concerns about this year’s property damage and that dialogue between the MNRF and Bracebridge should continue.

Flood Outlook notice ended November 27

Updated Nov. 27: The Ministry of Natural Resources has ended the watershed conditons statement flood outlook for Parry Sound-Muskoka.

UPDATE FROM MNR, Nov. 25, 1pm:: The Water Conditions Statement – Flood Outlook remains in effect. Water levels and flows in lakes and rivers are increasing as a result of rainfall and the melting of the snow pack over the last three days. It is expected that the rate of rise in water levels and flows will quickly diminish and then will begin to recede over the next 48-hours due to the return of seasonal air temperatures with no additional rainfall forecasted for the coming days.

It is expected that portions of known flood-prone roads along river courses will be impacted to various degrees as river levels rise. It is anticipated that low-lying roads and properties along the Big East River within the Town of Huntsville may be impacted by early evening today but residences will not be affected.
Residents affected by high water conditions in the past should take necessary action to secure any vulnerable property in close proximity to rivers and lakes and closely monitor developing conditions over the next few days. People are asked to exercise caution and ensure they, their children and pets stay away from fast moving rivers and streams.

ORIGINAL FLOOD OUTLOOK NOTICE ISSUED NOVEMBER 21

With the potential for up to 35 mm rain falling through Monday, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) has issued a Flood Outlook.

The Water Conditions Statement – Flood Outlook gives early notice of possible flooding based on weather forecasts calling for heavy rain, snow melt, high winds or other conditions.

While it doesn’t expect flooding to occur, the MNR says the wet weather we’re experiencing could increase run off into lakes and rivers leading to higher than usual river flows and lake levels for this time of year.

The notice warns residents affected by high water conditions in the past should take necessary steps to secure any vulnerable property near rivers and lakes and keep watch on developing conditions over the next few days. People should also take caution and keep children and pets away from fast moving rivers and streams.

The notice went into effect late Friday afternoon and includes Muskoka, Parry Sound and north-west part Haliburton. It will be updated or remain in effect until Tuesday, November 25 at 5pm.

Know Your Watershed Notification Terms

Just because the MNR issues a notice about our regional watershed conditions, it doesn’t mean you need to start building an ark. The following outlines the differences in terminology so residents can understand why they are being advised about water levels and take appropriate precautions as necessary.

Terminology: Notification Levels

  • WATERSHED CONDITIONS STATEMENT – FLOOD OUTLOOK: gives early notice of the potential for flooding based on weather forecasts calling for heavy rain, snow melt, high winds or other conditions
  • WATERSHED CONDITIONS STATEMENT – WATER SAFETY: indicates that high flows, melting ice or other factors could be dangerous for such users as boaters, anglers and swimmers but flooding is not expected.
  • FLOOD WATCH: potential for flooding exists within specific watercourses and municipalities
  • FLOOD WARNING: flooding is imminent or occurring within specific watercourses and municipalities.

Note: You can watch the weather on the Muskoka News Watch home page – regional weather conditions are featured in the top right corner. You can also learn more about what’s happening with water levels by visiting the Surface Water Monitoring Centre online.

Published November 22, 130pm

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Breaking News: Ontario Court of Appeal rejects Bala Falls portage appeal, a second legal blow for Muskoka Lakes Township Council

Updated with Official Township reaction

Updated July 21, 2:50pm: The Township of Muskoka Lakes has issued a release about today’s decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal. Please read the post below this update for a full article on the court decision regarding the Township’s appeal of parts of the Public Lands Act, including one section that gives the Ministry of Natural Resource authority over public use of Crown land.

The Township’s release reads (verbatim):

Mayor Murphy and Members of Council wish to advise that the Ontario Court of Appeal has released its decision, upholding the Minister of Natural Resources’ decision to ban the public’s right to portage across a historic canoe route at the Bala Falls.
Mayor Murphy stated that “the Township appreciates the Court’s timely decision on this important matter. Given the Court’s decision, we will be seeking to identify an alternate canoe portage route to promote safe and unimpeded portaging between Lake Muskoka and Moon River”.
The Ontario Court of Appeal released their decision earlier today.

Township of Muskoka Lakes loses judicial review; court costs to be awarded to MNR and Swift River Energy; SREL says enough now, let’s move on

Published July 21, 11:43pm: The Township of Muskoka Lakes has lost its bid to block a hydro plant in court. While blocking the plant was not on the Township’s specific wish list this time at the Ontario Court of Appeal, Township lawyer Harold Elston told the court that Township was seeking a prohibition of anything impeding the portage, including a bulldozer, a boulder – or even a hydro facility.

Today’s decision, released just one week after the hearing last Monday, July 14, rejected the Township’s argument that it wanted to protect a portage that is believed to have existed historically – a route that has changed drastically over the years since the coming of the railways, the building of the dam in 1873, and the construction of Highway 169 through Bala.

To read the entire decision, please click here: OntarioCourtofAppealDecisionJuly21

Swift River Energy Limited (SREL) Vice-President Frank Belerique told Muskoka News Watch this morning that his company is pleased with the decision, and at first glance he says the case was rejected for pretty much the same reasons given by the Divisional Court last August.

“We hope to put this behind us and plan a successful project,” says Belerique. “It’s enough, let’s move on. This was all a guise to further frustrate our project plans.”

In court last Monday, SREL lawyer Neil Finkelstein explained to the justices that the prime motivation for the judicial review was to frustrate the project. The Township did have specific language about seeking an order to block the project last August when it sought a judicial review from the lower Divisional Court but removed it this time explaining it “was incorrect” to include it in the Township’s argument. The Divisional court ruled safety trumped other sections of the Public Lands Act being disputed by Township. (Read that decision and articles from last August by clicking here).

As part of its argument last Monday, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) argued that while the Minister may have a range of actions it can take as part of the legislation, choosing the lowest level would not be wise considering the potential for liability. The remarks came in response to Elston saying that while the Ministry may have been correct in applying the safety provision, he believed it did not apply it correctly — and that a lot of learning and action had resulted after two drownings at the Bala Falls dam in 2009. He later contradicted that statement telling the justices he did not have enough information to answer specific questions about conclusions reached following that tragedy.

Elston also stated that closing the Crown site to public use would mean the loss of the single portage route between Lake Muskoka and Moon River. There are, in fact, at least three alternate portages: one high water and low water portage on Margaret Burgess Park as specified in Hap Wilson’s guiding book, Wild Muskoka; another one using the Mill Stream that does not require a paddler to carry a canoe across Highway 169; and another down Portage Street to the Moon River dock.

Note: The Court of Appeal did make one statement that opens a small crack of opportunity should the Township wish to pursue it. Here’s that one section of the decision that says the high court does not endorse the Divisional Court reasoning but does not see any reason to dispute it as it is not necessary to question the lower court’s interpretation.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 12.16.53 PM

Next steps for the Township Council? It could seek to take its case to the Supreme Court of Canada. While court costs to be paid are now $8,500 to the MNR (on top of the previous $17K awarded for the first go round in court) and $8,500 to SREL, it’s unclear how much the Township has run up in legal bills – not even for the portage argument alone.

References and Related Articles

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Rain in the forecast, but Muskoka watershed levels on decline

Muskoka water levels starting to decline, says MNR

Featured picture: It’s not unusual for land on this bay on north Lake Muskoka to get wet from the spring freshet. The water peaked here early on Saturday, April 26. There was no change over the next two days, but today the water has declined a bit. Last year, during the abnormal 100 year event, the entire grassy area you see in the picture was fully flooded and the owner saw Pike spawning on his front lawn.

Published April 29, 9.23 am: Environment Canada is calling for some rain today and there’s a chance of showers throughout the week with sun again on Friday. For those worried about water levels, it looks like we might be coming through the other side of the spring freshet. A Ministry of Natural Resources official says “the Muskoka River system,  and including Lake Muskoka, is now beginning to decline. While there is some rain forecasted for today and through the week, it shouldn’t cause water levels and flows to rise once again unless a significant amount of cumulative rainfall is received.”

North of us, the MNR North Bay District yesterday issued a Flood Watch for French River. For a list of MNR messages regarding Water Conditions, including Flood notifications, please click here.

References:

For a look at what last year looked like on April 8, please browse 2013: The Year of the Flood, a pictorial of water levels in Muskoka from last year’s flood event.

 

Potential for flooding as runoff expected to rise: Flood Watch in effect for our region

Flood Watch does not mean flooding an immediate threat, but potential is there water levels rise

Posted April 11, 11:15am: The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) for the Parry Sound-Muskoka District is advising area residents that a Flood Watch is now in effect. The advisory issued just now updates the notice sent out on April 9 that advised of a Flood Outlook.

Feature picture (left) by Norah Fountain: Watching the ice melt at Gull Lake Park in Gravenhurst

What’s the difference between a Flood Outlook and Flood Watch? Minor differences in water conditions terminology can mean a great deal for residents living in areas that are prone to flooding.

  • A Water Conditions Statement can be either a Water Safety or a Flood Outlook message that warns of high water along rivers and lakes. A Water Conditions Statement-Flood Outlook gives early notice of the potential for flooding.
  • A Flood Watch means potential for flooding exists within certain watercourses and municipalities.
  • A Flood Warning means flooding is imminent or occurring. This is NOT the case today, April 11, for our region. Today’s advisory is a Flood Watch, not a Warning.

Residents along rivers and lakes within the Parry Sound-Muskoka area are advised to keep a close watch on conditions, regularly check for updated messages and exercise caution around waterbodies as river flows and water levels continue to rise in the coming days.

A significant potential exists for flooding due to current conditions and forecasted rainfall. Residents may wish to take any further action necessary to secure or protect property in flood-prone or vulnerable areas. Local lakes are still ice covered which has the potential to impact shoreline infrastructure such as docks and boathouses as water levels rise and with prevailing winds.

The MNR is closely monitoring the weather and developing watershed conditions and will issue further updates as deemed appropriate.

Current forecast calling for rain starting Saturday

The current forecast is calling for up to 45mm or more precipitation Saturday April 12th through Monday April 14th. The forecast through to next Monday is for daytime high temperatures in the range of 6-13 degrees Celsius with near freezing nighttime temperatures.

Current Conditions: The water content within the existing snow pack throughout local watersheds continues to be significantly greater than the normal or historical average for early April. Forecasted temperatures and rainfall will accelerate the melt of the snow pack but flooding is not expected at this time. It is expected that the melting of the snow pack in addition to rainfall will significantly increase the amount of runoff into local waterbodies.

The rate of rise in water levels and flows is expected to increase through the weekend and into next week given current conditions.

Expiry Date: The MNR advises this latest message will expire Monday April 14, 2014 at noon.

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Rain expected this week; MNR issues watershed advisory

MNR issues Watershed Conditions Statement – Flood Outlook advisory.

April 9, 3pm: Today the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) for Parry Sound-Muskoka issued a flood outlook advisory to ensure residents are aware of how changing weather conditions can affect regional water flows and levels.

It reads:

Residents within the Parry Sound-Muskoka area should keep a close watch on conditions, regularly check for updated messages and exercise caution around water bodies as flows and levels within rivers and streams continue to increase in the coming days. Although flooding is not expected at this time, residents may wish to consider taking action to secure or protect any property in flood-prone or vulnerable areas.

The MNR is closely monitoring the weather and developing watershed conditions. Further updates will be issued as appropriate.

TECHNICAL INFORMATION

Description of Weather System

The weather forecast for the remainder of this week is for daytime high temperatures in the range of 1-13 degrees Celsius with near to below-freezing nighttime temperatures. The current forecast is calling for up to 35mm of precipitation this week through Sunday April 13th.

Description of Current Conditions

The water content within the existing snow pack throughout local watersheds is approximately 60% above normal or historical average for early April. Forecasted temperatures and rainfall will continue to melt the substantial snow pack but flooding is not expected at this time. It is expected that the intact snow pack will retain much of the forecasted rainfall which will minimize the amount of snow melt and runoff into local waterbodies.

Seasonal daytime/nighttime air temperatures for the remainder of this week will allow the snow pack to continue melting at a moderate rate therefore reducing the potential or likelihood for significant flooding within local rivers and lakes. The rate of rise in water levels and flows is expected to increase by this weekend and into next week given current conditions.

Expiry Date: This message will expire Monday April 14, 2014; 5:00 pm