There aren’t many dry floors or basements in Makwa at the moment after rain pummelled the community over the weekend, causing widespread flooding and prompting a state of emergency. Residents have been busy mopping up and figuring out their next steps as the rain caused water and sewage backups.
Virgil and Fran Paul are long-time residents of the village who built their house in 1975. The couple, who are nearing their 70s, said they never thought flooding would be an issue because they built their home up two feet back then. Both said the flooding didn’t become a problem until bridges were replaced by culverts in the late '80s. Ever since then, they said flooding has been a persistent issue, though it's never as bad as this year.
“They removed all the bridges around the village so the water can’t flow the way it’s supposed to,” Fran said. "When you’re living on pensions, we can’t just say ‘we’re going to work harder next week.’ Doesn’t work like that anymore at our age.”
The Pauls said they were thankful for the support from the village, as officials provided pump trucks to remove the sewage from their home, but they said they would like the provincial government to give them more answers and offer better solutions. Virgil said he and Fran recently received a letter from Ministry of Highways officials admitting there is a recurrent problem.
“The first time it happened it was after the highway was built [in 1989], because we never had water on our property before,” Fran said.
“We used to be two feet higher than the highway, now we’re two feet lower,” Virgil said. “If you lift the highway five feet and put two small culverts, eventually you’ve created a problem.”
The couple said they feel putting bridges back in their community could help water flow through easier.
“The solutions are really quite simple, as far as I see,” Fran said.
Doug Wakabayashi, executive director of communications with the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure, said the department is looking into increasing the capacity of culverts in the area, but said the major factor in the recent flood was the excessive rain.
"Our drainage structures, both culverts and bridges on provincial highways, are designed – and we’re required as well – to maintain natural flow," he said. "Any drainage structure has a finite capacity so if rainfall or runoff exceeds [that], there is a potential for flooding. Larger diameter culverts might reduce the risk of flooding, but doesn’t eliminate it.”
Wakabayashi said there is at least one culvert in the area which is in the tendering phase for an upgrade project.
Below are two videos showing the water level on village streets earlier this week. Although the water has since receded, the state of emergency has not yet been lifted.
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