Bottomless Pond cabin owners let out of leases for flooded land, but press for more

Cabin owners at Bottomless Pond on Newfoundland's west coast have scored a small victory after water levels rose so high on the pond their cabins floated away, but one owner says he's still fighting for more.

Mark Hoyles of Deer Lake recently received a letter from the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources, releasing him from his lease on a chunk of Crown land adjacent to Bottomless Pond where his cabin once sat, which cost him $200 annually.

"It was always there in the back of your head, that this was there hanging over you, right? Now they're saying that we're released from it and we don't have to worry about it," Hoyles said.

The Department of Fisheries and Land Resources confirmed to CBC it has complied with cabin owners' requests to cancel their remote cottage licences.

Hoyles said the province had previously told him he'd have to remove his cabin from the land before the lease could be cancelled, something he said was impossible as his cabin has long since floated away from its foundations.

Submitted by Mark Hoyles

"What land is there is under 17 to 27 feet of water. I don't know what land they're talking about," he said.

Hoyles wants to be compensated for the loss of his cabin, which he said was about seven years old, made of entirely new materials and cost about $50,000.

Get your scuba gear

Flooding at Bottomless Pond, in a remote area of wilderness between Deer Lake and Gros Morne, first made headlines in June 2018, when water levels rose approximately 3½ metres higher than normal, prompting a police warning to steer clear of the area.

But those floodwaters never receded, and continued to rise to the extent that by June this year the five cabins on the pond floated away, with Hoyles saying his cabin is now across the pond, with waters cresting at around eight metres above the previous high water mark this summer, and now sitting at around seven metres.

It doesn't seem like anybody wants to take the incentive to do anything, to help us, or to clean it up. - Mark Hoyles

"There's only the roofs sticking out of the water," he said.

"There's no getting inside unless you got scuba gear."

The accepted explanation for the unusual occurrence is that the flooding in January 2018 caused some debris to block the pond's ability to drain.

Compensation fight

However, Hoyles said since an initial check in 2018, no one from the province has ever returned to truly examine the issue, and cabin owners are unsatisfied.

"We've been fighting government for some sort of answers, some sort of compensation. Something must be done," he said.

"You go in there, and there's stuff floating around the pond everywhere, and the shorelines and that. But it doesn't seem like anybody wants to take the incentive to do anything, to help us, or to clean it up, or see what's going on."

Hoyles said his cabin was insured, but flood damage wasn't covered, and it's not financially feasible for him to build another cabin without compensation.

"It's heartbreaking," he said.

In a statement, the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources said it does not insure title holders and "it can't provide protection from unexpected water table increases."

The province has also created a land reserve around the pond so no additional cabin licence applications can be permitted.

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