Muskoka Flood 2019 came, went, and now what? We followed up with the MNRF; We can’t prevent flooding

Agatha Farmer

MUSKOKA - If you lived through the 106 year flood of 2019 in Muskoka and escaped without any property damages consider yourself lucky.

Many residents are still picking up the pieces and recovering from the historic watershed overflow that occurred between April and May. During a two week span three municipalities in Muskoka declared emergencies as flood waters kept rising. A media frenzy ensued, Premier Doug Ford toured the region, met with Muskoka mayors and during an April 24 visit said that the province is 100 percent behind the affected municipalities.

As worried and concerned residents asked their local and provincial governments for solutions amid property and infrastructure damages in the millions, a task force was created to improve the province's resilience to flooding. Updating the Muskoka River Water Management Plan was listed as another priority by Muskoka Lakes Mayor Phil Harding to reflect climate change in the decades old document which is used to control water flows within the watershed.

In a Muskoka Post column Harding stated the following;

"The simple truth to Muskoka’s issue is the (MRWMP) Muskoka River Water Management Plan (that sets the lake levels across the 200 plus KM water shed in Muskoka) is broken and is in dire need of an update."

In May Premier Ford and Natural Resources Minister John Yakabuski said the government will work better to plan for and reduce the impacts of flooding.

A statement from Ford and Yakabuski in May indicated that following seeing first hand "the devastating effect of flooding ... the people of Ontario can't go through this every year. Something needs to change."

Most Muskoka tax payers whole heartedly agree. So what will change and what progress has been made by the government to date? We posed the question to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry as well as the Premier's office. While we have yet to hear from Ford's office the MNRF emailed Muskoka Post the following update.

"The Minister appointed a Special Flooding Advisor, Mr. Doug McNeil, in the spring of 2019, to review Ontario’s current flood mitigation strategies. Mr. McNeil has now delivered his report to Minister Yakabuski. The Minister will carefully review and consider the  recommendations and will release the report in the coming weeks. Our number one priority is the safety of the public and the protection of our communities .

We want to help Ontarians protect what matters most by improving flood resources and increasing awareness about flood risks. We can’t prevent flooding – we can only become more resilient to it. Increasing resiliency is a shared responsibility - all levels of government, builders and property owners have an important role to play."

And so Muskoka awaits the minister's report and hopes that for those who have had to rebuild homes, and those who have been denied flood insurance coverage Spring 2020 won't be rinse and repeat with a 107 year flood.

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