River Watch 2022 ends with no major flooding but caution from EMO head

·3 min read
Greg MacCallum, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, said disaster can strike at any time and people should not be lulled into a false sense of security. (Government of New Brunswick - image credit)
Greg MacCallum, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, said disaster can strike at any time and people should not be lulled into a false sense of security. (Government of New Brunswick - image credit)

The province's River Watch program for the 2022 freshet season ended Monday with no major flooding but with a word of caution from the director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization.

Greg MacCallum says the province was "lucky to have a smooth spring freshet" once again.

"I hope this does not lull people into a false sense of security," he said in a statement.

"Disaster can strike at any time of year, and every household should have an emergency plan and a 72-hour preparedness kit," he said.

St. John River levels dropping

Water levels in all areas along the St. John River basin continue to decrease and return to normal levels, according to a news release issued by the province.

River Watch offers daily forecasts of water levels for communities along the St. John River, which is prone to breaking its banks every spring, as well as areas along the Kennebecasis and Nashwaak rivers.

As of Monday, Woodstock and Gagetown are still listed at the "watch" level on the program's online portal.

Seven other communities are still at the "advisory" stage:

  • Saint-Hilaire

  • Jemseg

  • Sheffield-Lakeville Corner

  • Grand Lake

  • Oak Point

  • Quispamsis - Saint John

  • Hampton (Kennebecasis River)

Since March 11, hydrology experts have monitored the river levels, watching for potential flooding caused by rain, melting snow and ice jams.

This information enabled officials and the public to take the necessary steps to keep themselves and their properties safe.

"Even during years when there is little flooding, the River Watch team keeps a close eye on waterways," Public Safety Minister Bill Hogan said in a statement.

Shane Fowler/CBC
Shane Fowler/CBC

Although the river got to the flood stage in three communities, it receded below flood level within a few days, Geoffrey Downey, a spokesperson for the department has said.

Last year, an ice jam along the St. John River at Perth-Andover in late March resulted in minor flooding on a nearby road and the closure of schools in the village for two days.

In 2018 and 2019, water levels in the St. John River rose well above flood stage in several communities, including Fredericton, Maugerville and the Saint John region, resulting in millions of dollars in property damage.

Operated for 8 weeks

The River Watch program depends on a formula to decide when to shut down operations for the year. During a low-flood-risk year, it usually ends sometime in May, Downey has said.

Last year it shut down in mid-April, but that was an outlier, according to Downey.

Over the past eight weeks, the River Watch team published public advisories, conducted interviews with provincial media and kept the public informed through social media.

The program is a joint effort involving the Department of Environment and Local Government, NB Power and the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization of the Department of Justice and Public Safety.

Other partners include Environment and Climate Change Canada, watershed groups, and federal, provincial and state agencies involved in monitoring and forecasting the water flows in the province's rivers and streams.

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