Pembroke — Although the Pembroke waterfront has fallen victim to the rising waters of the mighty Ottawa River, forcing the closure of that area to the public, the mayor of the city feels somewhat fortunate they have escaped the more extreme problems other areas downstream are facing.
Mayor Mike LeMay told the Leader Monday afternoon while there was heavy flooding at the waterfront that forced city officials to close both entrances to traffic, things are worse elsewhere in Renfrew County.
“We’ve got flooding at the waterfront and we lost the little lighthouse, but we can replace it,” he said. “But so far, we’re a little more fortunate than other areas of the county.”
Mayor LeMay said unlike other municipalities, he has not declared a State of Emergency yet, but he and staff are constantly monitoring the situation.
“I did a tour of the two areas, that, if the river went up much more, could have some flooding. We’re waiting on the report at five o’clock. We’ll look a it, and check again tomorrow.
“But so far, as far as the residential aspect along the Ottawa River, we’re okay,” he added. “But that could change.”
In terms of the waterfront flooding, he said it got progressively worse over the weekend, forcing the closure of the two access roads to traffic.
“On Friday, our staff started working to make sure our infrastructure within the waterfront area was protected,” he said. “But then with the waves and so on, there was flooding, but it is in the park area.”
Truck loads of sand were trucked in to create a temporary berm under the old railway trestle near the Cogeco cablevision headquarters to prevent the rising waters from flowing out onto Lake Street. Mayor LeMay said the existing berm of the former Canadian Pacific railway bed has definitely kept the water contained.
While he believes the flooding at the waterfront may be slightly more extreme than in 2017, he feels the affect of the previous flood was felt in far more areas of the city.
“In 2017, we had a lot more flooding down around Elgin (Street) and, of course, I always worry about the Muskrat (river), with the landslides we tended to have and the erosion we had because of that.”
While there was some residential flooding in those areas over the Easter weekend, the Muskrat and Indian rivers appear to be receding.
“When you look at where the city is in regards to the Ottawa River, we’re probably fortunate because Laurentian Valley gets nailed because it narrows like a funnel. It’s nice and wide in Pembroke, but when you start going down, it really gets narrow.”
Mayor LeMay said city staff are meeting daily to assess the situation to see what they have to do moving forward.
“They’ve been able to stay on top of the situation,” he said. “They’ve been able to get our infrastructure at the waterfront sandbagged before the water rose.”
He expressed his concern about possible flooding damage at the waterfront campus of Algonquin College but believes the situation there is now okay.
The outdoor chapel built at the college is underwater and sections of the walkway that lead to the waterfront are also flooded.
There is also lots of water in Riverside Park but it too is contained to that area.
Mayor LeMay said it’s difficult to know if the water has crested yet as there are differing reports, adding it is predicted the Ottawa will reach its peak in the National Capital area either Thursday or Friday.
“So has it crested in Pembroke? Some people say yes. I don’t know. I’d rather wait another day.
“But basically we’re on top of it and saying what do we have to do next going forward,” he added.
He said the city is trying to keep homeowners in low lying areas along the Ottawa constantly advised of what is happening. He agreed the water levels at the waterfront have started to recede.
“That is why we’re trying to keep everybody out of there. We don’t want anybody getting hurt.”
Mayor LeMay said large cement blocks were placed on the walkway to hold it down. He expects the lighthouse, which is owned by the Department of Oceans and Fisheries, will be replaced. It toppled Friday night during high winds. There was still lots of ice in the marina area that may have pushed it over.
Shortly after the interview with Mayor LeMay, the city issued a release stating the Kiwanis Walkway was now closed for the safety of the public.
“The marina and waterfront remain closed and we urge the public not to visit these areas,” the release stated.
Mayor LeMay said aside from the current flooding, he is concerned about deadheads and the high water may have loosened to cause hazards during the boating season. When the water recedes city staff will also be examining all infrastructure to ensure it was not damaged by water levels.
He said many employees of the downtown core use the parking lots at the waterfront and they are now using the parking area at the Pembroke Memorial Centre and another area.