People living near Rennie's River say St. John's too slow to fix flooding nightmare

St. John's residents living along the Rennie's River are calling on the city to keep a promise.

Five years ago, city council said it would spend about $5 million to stop flooding along the waterway that courses right though the capital, but dozens of people who live next to the river say they're still waiting.

"To date, little or nothing has been done to see that construction take place," said David Winter, who's lived in the same home on Pringle Place for three decades.

Winter said that in the last 20 years he's seen a troubling change.

Mark Quinn/ CBC

"Basements flooded, properties eroded. It's happened many times since 2001. It's just been a nightmare for those of us living along the river," he said.

A 2014 report by CBCL Limited Consulting Engineers documented flooding in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2012.

Many believe it's the result of development upstream. They blame subdivisions and malls that paved over wetlands that used to absorb water upstream. Some say it's been compounded by heavier storms caused by climate change.

David Winter

CBCL's number one recommendation for flood control is a dam, or weir, at the east end of Long Pond to control water flowing downstream toward properties.

It said keeping more water in Long Pond and releasing it more slowly will prevent flood damage downstream.

The city said it liked that idea, and committed to doing it in 2014.

"We would have preferred to have it built by this time," said St. John's Mayor Danny Breen.


But Breen said there are two main reasons the weir hasn't been built yet. First, it has to go through a  provincial environmental assessment that Breen said has been taking longer than expected. Second, he said the Pippy Park Commission has concerns about the impact the weir will have on walking trails and nearby wildlife habitat.

"The process is there for a reason and we're complying with that and working through it," said Breen.

"We really want to get this done, because it really is an important project to the city and an extremely important project to the residents along the river."

Flood control at the Health Sciences Centre

Breen doesn't believe the province's plans to control flooding at the Health Sciences Centre, and the new Adult Mental Health and Addictions Facility it is promising to build there, will cause more problems downstream —  but he did say the city won't approve the province's plans to build in a floodplain.

"Obviously we'd like all levels of government to adhere to our regulations and our regulations do not permit us to approve construction in a floodplain. So we won't be giving approval for construction in the floodplain," said Breen.

"But the province doesn't have to adhere to our regulations, so, they will make their decision as they see fit."

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