OTTAWA – While COVID-19 was the top topic at today’s (March 25) special City of Ottawa council meeting, the 2020 spring freshet was also discussed. Although, you can’t have a conversation these days without COVID-19 worming its way in to it.
City manager Steve Kanellakos gave council an update on spring flood preparations during today’s council meeting, the first in the city’s history to take place via teleconference.
Council chambers were reduced to essential personnel only and almost all councillors attended the meeting via telephone conference call.
“We will have a Spring Freshet Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) established on Monday, March 30,” he told council.
Kanellakos said the city has 200,000 filled sandbags, 387,000 empty ones and 21,000 tonnes of reclaimed sand from last year’s flooding.
“The issue is what labour will we have to mobilize,” he said.
Last year there were more than 15,000 volunteers helping with flood preparations “working in close proximity to one another.”
In the age of COVID-19, city staff are not expecting a large number of volunteers if they are needed.
“We are assessing what resources we will have,” Kanellakos said.
Of course, all of that is only needed if there is extreme flooding. So far, prognostications look good.
“Current conditions seem favourable,” Kanellakos said. “But I remind everyone last year at April 4 we were in the same situation. Rainfall can dramatically change things.”
Bay Ward Coun. Theresa Kavanagh wondered if it would be possible to host a virtual town hall for the public on the flooding issue.
“We’re finalizing our work,” Kanellakos said. “Once we have that package ready, I want to meet with you and the other two councillors (Coun. Eli El-Chantiry and Cumberland Ward which sits empty as Stephen Blais resigned recently) to brief you and then we can absolutely do that.”