Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Forks of the Thames surrounded by flood plain

Yellow indicates extent of flooding expected once every 200 years.
When I moved to London back in '76, I lived in the former Petersville situated immediately across the Thames River from the downtown. I loved my 1920s home. I loved the location — near the river. But come the spring of '77, the river rose to within an inch of the top of the West London Dike and the city piled sand-bags on top of the storm sewer grates on my street. I learned from my neighbours that in the past my neighbourhood had been flooded a number of times. After this, I distrusted my home's location — near the river.

Now, I live in Byron on a sloping rise of land known as the Ingersoll Moraine. My home overlooks the western end of the city. I no longer worry about flooding. I like the location — high above the river.

According to the city planning department, the place to accent in London is the land at the Forks of the Thames. I can see that but I can also see exercising caution, showing restraint. As Londoners well know, when one thinks of the forks of the Thames one should also think of flooding.

Look at the satellite view. Note the large neighbourhood on the west bank of the river above the forks. It is built on flood plain. Residents died when serious flooding inundated this area in the past. After the flood of '37 there was talk of London buying all the housing affected, moving the residents out and tearing down the homes. The argument was that this would be cheaper than building all the flood control dams and dikes required for proper protection.

In the end, the municipal and provincial governments went with the dams and dikes. But even with all the protections in place, in 1977 the area came within one rainfall of suffering the fabled one-in-two-hundred-years flood.

Before Londoners can get behind any plans for the forks, the planning department has to assure Londoners that any proposal does not involve building on flood plain. And you don't even have to think Calgary or Winnipeg to understand the threat. Just think London: 1883, 1937, 1947, 1977, 1986, 2000 and April 2008 and again in December of 2008.

Weather patterns are changing. When it comes to buildings and rivers, I personally like to err on the dry side.

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