The Lacroix Bay area is one of the areas in the Township of Whitewater Region hardest hit by the flooding in that stretch of the Ottawa River.
Anthony Dixon / Observer and News / jpg, PM
At 1:30 p.m. Sunday, April 28 Renfrew County Warden Jennifer Murphy declared an emergency due to the severe flooding across several watershed areas throughout the entirety of the County of Renfrew.The declaration was made under the Emergnecy Management and Protection Act.“Today I have declared a state of emergency for Renfrew County, with the focus on supporting the local municipalities that are being directly impacted by the flooding here in the county,” Murphy said. “I would ask that residents continue to be diligent of the safety for themselves and those around them in these difficult times, and that residents can be assured that the County of Renfrew along with all impacted municipalities in the county are making all efforts to provide support where and when needed.”The primary watershed areas affected are those along the Ottawa River, the Bonnechere River and the Madawaska River.As of Sunday afternoon, five lower-tier municipalities in the county have declared a state of emergency: Whitewater Region, Horton, McNab/Braeside, Laurentian Valley and Greater Madawaska.The provincial law that allows municipalities to declare emergencies also gives them broadly defined powers to deal with the crisis.“The Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act allows municipalities that have declared emergencies to undertake actions and make orders that are needed to ensure the protection of life, civil order and property during the emergency,” said a statement provided by Brent Ross, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of the Solicitor General.“For example, a municipality may require people to evacuate an area during a flood or fire; remain quarantined in the case of a disease outbreak; or set curfews during times of civil unrest,” said Ross.“All of these orders or actions must still be lawful and constitutional.”The declaration of an emergency also allows municipalities to set aside procurement bylaws for emergency purposes, said Ross.Another benefit is that once an emergency is declared, volunteers who help out are covered under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, said Ross.In a released statement, the County of Renfrew reminds residents that rising water levels pose an ongoing threat to the property, health and safety of people and that flood levels are currently exceeding the historic levels seen in 2017.For safety, all residents should monitor weather conditions, check for updated messages, and exercise caution near fast-moving water. Residents should take appropriate precautions to protect their property in a safety-oriented manner and be prepared to evacuate if necessary.The warden stated that she knows that a lot of hard work has been done by so many to this point to try and mitigate damage, but based on current information residents need to be resilient. Water levels are expected to rise as rain and runoff from the snow melt continues to feed into local rivers and lakes in the coming days.According to the latest flow rates and predictions by the Ottawa River Regulation Planning Board (ORRPB) available to the Observer and News before press time, levels from Mattawa down to Pembroke are expected to continue rising with major flood levels expected to be exceeded starting Wednesday. Flows and levels along the Ottawa River are forecast to exceed those of May 2017 in all areas along the Ottawa River. Areas that were not impacted by the 2017 flooding may also be at risk this year. Levels are forecast to peak on Tuesday and Wednesday and should remain fairly stable depending on weather conditions according to the ORRPB. The board said reservoirs in the northern part of the watershed are being used to store runoff and minimize flooding downstream but they are rapidly filling.The County of Renfrew reminds residents to contact their local municipality if they are experiencing flooding or require sandbags, sand or if they wish to volunteer to help others. Local municipalities are working diligently at providing sandbags and sand to residents that require them as a means of protecting homes and businesses.Residents are also encouraged to contact their local municipality to report flooding of roadways so that an online map can be updated quickly to reflect road closures. The mapping tool is called “Municipal511” and can be found online at www.municipal511.ca Residents can access the Renfrew County Flood Impact & Recovery document located at:http://www.countyofrenfrew.on.ca/news-events/news/county-of-renfrew—flood-preparation-and-recovery/ The County of Renfrew will continue to post road closures and Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry Flood Warnings to the County’s Face Book and Twitter Feeds, and update the local media whenever possible.With files from Jacquie Miller of Postmedia ADixon@postmedia.com