Fort Albany Chief says flood protections are falling short
Fort Albany Chief Elizabeth Kataquapit says the dykes that are supposed to protect the community are falling apart.
The dykes that are meant to protect the coastal community from flooding are in disrepair, and leadership in the community says the federal government has not taken steps to address the issue.
“The causeway between the mainland and Sinclair Island has been down almost since it was constructed,” said Kataquapit.
She said the dyke between Sinclair Island and Anderson Island was also breached last year and leadership has been patching it up as best they can since then.
“It’s still there, but the water went over the dyke and it caused damage,” she said. “Community leadership put gravel on it and rebuilt it last year.”
A full evacuation of the community has been taking place since a state of emergency was declared on April 28, with members travelling to Niagara Falls.
She said everyone has settled in so far, and that there are only a few people left in the community, along with emergency services.
“The rest are remaining in the community, essential services workers and that,” said Kataquapit. “Some people just don’t want to leave.”
Indigenous Services Canada said they do not have any repairs or replacement requests on the books, and they are focused on the current evacuations, and working with the community through this season’s floods.
“In line with the joint command approach, the Province of Ontario and ISC are working collaboratively with the respective communities to support their precautionary evacuations,” said ISC spokesperson Matthew Gutsch. “The department is committed to ensuring the safety, health and well being of First Nation residents evacuated to host communities, living on the land, as well as those choosing to remain in the community.”
Nearly 700 people have been evacuated to Kapiskasing and Niagara Falls.
“We have update meetings everyday, and everyone’s doing fine,” said Kataquapit.
The Ministry of Natural Resources Far North and Mushkegowuk Emergency Management Services have reported that the flood watch on the Albany River will remain in effect until Wednesday.
The MNR report states that there is a large amount of residual ice heading down river from the progressing break-up, and water levels remain high on the Albany River.
Kataquapit said that the flooding of the causeway between the mainland and Sinclair Island means the community is cut off from essential services.
“Whenever the causeway overflows, it cuts off our life line to the hospital and to the airport,” she said. “After that, we rely on helicopter services, and we set up a clinic on Sinclair Island where a lot of people live.”
ISC said it will continue to work with the community to address concerns.
“ISC works closely with these communities, including Fort Albany, the province of Ontario, Tribal Councils and other partners to support communities in their preparation and response to potential flooding,” said Gutsch. “This includes flood watch and working with partners to identify host communities in the event that an evacuation is required.”
Amanda Rabski-McColl, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com