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City of Corner Brook initially overestimated millions in flood damages, says director of public works

Crews worked hard to contain the heavy flooding of Boones Road in Corner Brook.
Crews worked hard to contain the heavy flooding of Boones Road in Corner Brook. - FILE

While it was deemed a state of emergency for a while, Corner Brook actually got off a little easy compared to other places affected by the infamous west coast flood of January 2018. 

Corner Brook thought they were going to lose the city depot as a result of flooding.
Corner Brook thought they were going to lose the city depot as a result of flooding.

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In the early stages, the city had thought the cost to repair damages caused by the sudden flow of powerful floodwaters would be in the millions.

Donald Burden, the City of Corner Brook’s director of public works, water and wastewater, is more than happy with the price tag it ended up being: just above $300,000.

Most of the damage was caused by water rushing downhill in the upper west side of the city as underground infrastructure became overwhelmed by the volume of water.

The heaviest hit areas were in the Boones Road, Walbourne’s Road and Reid’s Road area. Woodbine Avenue in Curling, which is another long and steep incline, was damaged, as were parts of the walking trail along Griffin Drive.

The city depot on Charles Street also took the full brunt of melting snow and heavy rainfall coming down the hill behind it, as did some businesses on Union Street just down the hill from the depot.

“When we got into the actual repairs, we realized it wasn’t as extreme as we thought it could have been and that number came down fairly quickly,” Burden said of the original estimates of millions of dollars’ worth of damage.

At one point, it was thought the city depot may need to be replaced because of the damage to it.

Instead, a restoration contractor cleaned up the depot at a cost of around $10,000, according to Burden.

“We were overwhelmed the night of the storm and the few days following it and we might have overstated what we predicted the damage to be,” he said.

The city did some immediate work after the flood to clear storm sewers of ice and debris, to repair eroded road shoulders and re-gravel unpaved roads such as Walbourne’s Road and Boone’s Road.

During the summer months, the city took an aggressive approach to cleaning out storm sewers as best it could to ensure they were ready to receive more water should another significant storm hit.

The water levels of the Corner Brook Stream rose so high they almost engulfed the Main Street Bridge.
The water levels of the Corner Brook Stream rose so high they almost engulfed the Main Street Bridge.

The city was able to roll some of the work into its regular maintenance program, but Burden estimated the city still spent about $125,000 on addressing issues caused by this flood.

In the fall, Marine Contractors was awarded a tender, valued at $208,756, to do more work to reinstate municipal infrastructure to what it was prior to the storm.

An early start to the winter prevented the contractor from starting and the work is now on hold until the spring.

The contract is being funded by the federal Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangement program. Burden said that program does include a 10 per cent allowance to replace bigger or better infrastructure than had previously been used if it will help prevent problems from recurring.

The contract issued to Marine Contractors will likely include putting a larger culvert in the Reid’s Road area, noted Burden.

He said it’s possible the city will issue another smaller tender for any work needed to tie up any loose ends not covered by the projects awarded to Marine Contractors.

“We’re comfortable that, with the remediation work we did in-house last summer and the bit of work we did right after the storm itself, we will get through this winter and let Marine take over and get us back to where we were prior to January 2018,” said Burden.

Of course, a major component of declaring a state of emergency in Corner Brook last year had to do with the water levels of the Corner Brook Stream threatening the Main Street bridge. The city already had plans to replace the bridge with the new one that opened late in 2018, and which is a metre above the stream’s high-water mark.

“If we’re up to the underside of that new bridge, then the bridge would be the least of our worries,” Burden said, alluding to the fact such high water would likely mean a serious widespread flooding problem in the downtown area.

Nonetheless, Burden said he still gets goosebumps when he thinks of the unexpected combination of heavy rain and significant snowmelt that caused so much damage one year ago.

“I keep checking the weather week-by-week, just hoping it doesn’t come back,” he said.

A culvert near Little Rapids on the Trans-Canada Highway washed away under the pressure of an increased flow of water.
A culvert near Little Rapids on the Trans-Canada Highway washed away under the pressure of an increased flow of water.

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