Village refuses responsibility for flooding lands

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Bill Wright would like the Village of Merrickville-Wolford to do something about water flooding his land on Armstrong Road, flooding caused by badly constructed culverts installed by the Village a few years ago.

The municipality installed two culverts under Armstrong Road which directed water to the Atkinson Creek. Because of this work not being done properly, water coming out of the east culvert drained down the ditches beside the road instead. The water ended up on Bill’s land and he was naturally concerned that the Village repair the damage and fix the problem.

What was needed was for the Village to open up the channel at the outlet of the culvert so it could drain towards the Creek, rather than down the roadside ditch.

At first, the Manager of Public Works and the Drainage Superintendent of the Village argued against doing this repair work, claiming that this could intrude on wetlands and was outside of the jurisdiction of the municipality. However, after talks with Bill and the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority [RVCA], it was agreed that the work could be done under strict conditions, as laid down by the RVCA.

The permit issued by the RVCA for the work allowed for a channel to be cleared for 100 metres from the culvert to the Creek, which would, according to the Village, “assist in mitigating the water that currently flows down the north side of the ditch”. All might have been well, had not the Village opened a channel at the wrong culvert. Instead of working at the east culvert, the Village opened the channel at the west one, and not for the 100 metres allowed by the RVCA permit. Instead, the channel went 100 metres in from the road, then turned and went a further 120 metres, ending in the middle of Bill’s land, and not in the Atkinson Creek. This was in the Summer of 2016.

With the flooding situation now made worse by the “mitigating” work, Bill approached the Village to correct the mistake they had made. CAO John Regan says Bill, laughed in his face and advised him to “lawyer up”. Bill continued to try and get the problem dealt with by the people who had caused it. Although then-CAO Arie Hoogenboom admitted in a letter on May 4 this year that “The work did in fact take place further west than originally planned”, he explained that the 25-ton shovel used could not operate at the east culvert.

Furthermore, he claimed that “the work that was undertaken by the Village..at its own expense was inspected and approved by the RVCA”.

When Bill Wright sought some advice from a lawyer, as suggested by Regan, the Village used that as an excuse not to talk to him any further. Instead, Arie Hoogenboom sent him an e-mail on June 26 stating that council had discussed the matter in closed session and “deny any wrongdoing on the part of the municipality and consider the matter closed”.

This was less than honest, as Bill found when he asked the RVCA for their inspection report, as cited by Arie Hoogenboom. The RVCA Regulations Planner, Shelley Macpherson, in an e-mail on July 5, there had been no inspection of the work after it was completed. Instead, the proposed work had been approved. As Shelley put it: “the approval is prior to the work”.

The Village of Merrickville-Wolford is refusing to admit any responsibility for the increasingly serious flooding that now affects Bill Wright’s land. Although his property is situated beside a wetland and flooding is a natural hazard, the actions of the municipality appear to have made this situation far worse, and their refusal to accept that their actions have caused the current situation is what has made Bill most upset. At the moment, Mayor Nash is considering the correspondence which is cited in this article, and it is hoped that talks with Bill Wright will take place and something is done to “mitigate” the water that currently flows through his property.

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