Public Works, Protective Services update council on freshet

Special to WC Online

(Editor’s note: As we did during the 2017 flood, 2018 tornado, 2019 flood and COVID-19 pandemic, we will be making our coverage of potential extreme flooding in 2023 free access to our entire community to hopefully provide flooding updates, important information and resources to all West Carleton and beyond, so those outside the area can better understand what is happening in our rural community)

WEST CARLETON – While city staff work feverishly in West Carleton and beyond, preparing for an expected flooding of the lower Ottawa River, management updated city council late last night (April 18) on their mitigation plans.

 As reported from the field yesterday (April 18), Ward 5 Coun. Clarke Kelly, city staff, West Carleton Disaster Relief (WCDR), residents and volunteers switched in to high gear, preparing for an oncoming flood.

“The Ottawa River Regulating Committee (ORRC) is indicating water levels are currently expected to remain well below historical flood levels on the main stem of the Ottawa River,” Emergency and Protective Services general manager Kim Ayotte and Public Works general manager Alain Gonthier released in a joint memo to council obtained by West Carleton Online yesterday (April 19).  “We are seeing, however, flood forecasts approaching one in 10-year return periods, indicating an onset of flooding slightly beyond ‘normal’ (i.e., one in two-year or one in five-year events). At this level, the potential damage from flooding remains relatively low the pair said.”

By way of comparison, 2017 saw one in 50-year flood levels and 2019 saw one in 100-year levels. As of this morning (April 18) at 7 a.m., water levels in Constance Bay are at 59.73 metres and are forecast to reach 60.23 (2017 peak 60.44 m/2019 peak 60.75 m). Water levels in Arnprior are at 75.14 m and forecast to reach 75.50 m (2017 peak 75.95/2019 peak 76.28 m).

“The city’s preference though is to take a proactive approach so that we are able to provide residents with the information, guidance, and support they need,” the general managers said.

The city has escalated its posture to Enhanced Operations and has mobilized the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC). 

“This means the city’s flood preparedness and response work will shift to the Emergency and Protective Services Department, with on-going support from the Public Works Department,” the memo reads/

In addition to residential flooding, the EOC is working with the city’s Infrastructure and Water Services Department (IWSD) to monitor for potential impacts to city critical infrastructure.

“At this time, IWSD is prepared to implement mitigation measures, if required, but that threshold has not been met and there are no concerns to report related to IWSD assets,” Ayotte and Gonthier said.

The memo states flood protection of private, residential properties is the responsibility of the homeowner.

“The city’s support work is therefore focused on information-sharing and facilitation (like) making sand and sandbags available,” the general managers said.

As an extra measure to ensure residents in higher flood-risk neighborhoods get the information they need, Ottawa Fire Services (OFS) is conducting door-by-door visits to specific homes in Cumberland, Bay Ward, and West Carleton.

“The purpose of the visits is to provide residents with flood preparedness information and locations of city sand-bagging stations, as well as to assess needs, particularly for vulnerable residents,” Ayotte and Gonthier said.

The City of Ottawa continues to provide sand and sandbags to residents who live in areas prone to spring flooding. The city has more than 527,000 empty sandbags in reserve. Empty sandbags, sand and sandfilling stations are available at 19 locations across the city for residents to access.

The locations are being updated regularly at

“The city’s Public Works Department has been filling sandbags, using city equipment,” the memo reads. “The city has dropped off the filled bags in specific neighborhood locations that have been more prone to flooding in the past such as Willola Beach at Moorhead in Constance Bay, Loggers Way at Lighthouse Lane and the dead end at Morris Island Drive in Fitzroy Harbour. A small number of city staff will continue to assist with the filling of sandbags on Wednesday (April 19) and Thursday (April 20) this week for use by residents.”

Volunteer organization is being led by non-government organizations like West Carleton Disaster Relief (WCDR) and you can contact them here.

“We know residents want to help with sandbagging,” Ayotte and Gonthier said. “In the immediate term, the West Carleton Disaster Relief organization is mobilizing some local support in that part of the city. The city is also putting in place plans that could be activated on very short notice, to mobilize a broader volunteer effort as an additional escalation in posture. More information will be shared soon.”

The city will continue to share information with residents and Members of Council.

“Please note the city has noticed a broad range of flood assessments being shared by residents and organized groups on social media,” Ayotte and Gonthier said. “In some cases, they are indicating the flood levels will mirror those from 2019. We want to highlight here these assessments do not match what is being shared by the conservation authorities. The city is continuing to monitor flood levels very closely and will provide you with accurate forecasts.”

Residents can join the City of Ottawa’s Spring Flood 2023 Facebook group to access information for those affected by spring flooding or anyone who wishes to keep up to date with any developments.   

Residents can also visit to get information such as current conditions, any road, pathway or park closures, planning and prevention tips, and sandbag depot locations. 

“We appreciate your support as we move to this new phase of the city’s flood preparedness work,” Ayotte and Gonthier said. “It’s always a team effort and we look forward to working with you, going forward.”

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