Despite repeated home flooding attributed to climate change, the maintenance of the city’s stormwater infrastructure is being shortchanged again as council tries to keep taxes as low as possible in an election year. The 2014 budget is set for approval this week as citizen groups prepare for climate action on May 10 and a May 12 public forum to explore how Hamilton’s residents and government can respond effectively to the climate change challenge.
The city has endured twenty storms in the last decade that flooded homes in various parts of Hamilton, and Brad Clark believes council is rolling the dice by refusing to add more than one million dollars in stormwater maintenance spending that’s been recommended by city staff since 2011.
“We don’t put the money in place to allow the maintenance to be in place and two years from now or next year the flooding occurs because we’re just trying to scrimp on a penny,” Clark warned, “At some point we have to either buy a big ark or make sure that this system is there to clean out those above ground stormwater systems.”
This year staff recommended spending $1.37 million comprised of: $650,000 to regularly clean the city’s 160 stormwater ponds: $300,000 to ensure catch basins are cleaned every two years instead of the current eight year cycle; $270,000 to replace culverts and outfall structures; and $150,000 to repair catch basins. By a 6-3 vote, councillors approved only the $300,000 for more frequent catch basin cleaning.
The extra funding has been sought since at least 2011 when staff revealed that there was no budget at all to clean the city’s 42,000 catch basins. In 2012 council used the capital budget for a one-time cleaning, but last year turned down a staff request for on-going funding.
The lack of maintenance dollars for stormwater ponds was also revealed in 2011 and remains unaddressed. Lloyd Ferguson noted that dredging of accumulated silt from the ponds was required every twenty years but said he as was “not sure it’s a problem that’s staring us down” or that it was “as critical and chronic” to add to the annual budget.
Clark countered that “the amount or volume of water that will come out of that pond onto the streets is directly contributable to the amount of sediment in the pond, and if we choose not to rehabilitate those ponds and clean them out on a regular basis, it’s just a throw of the dice and at some point you may end up having flooding in your street.”
More extreme weather is a widely predicted feature of global climate change that is already becoming very evident. Since the spring of 2004, Hamilton has endured three one–hundred–year rains, three more than exceeded the 50–year standard and one in the summer of 2012 that was supposed to occur only once every 1000 to 5000 years and drenched Binbrook and upper Stoney Creek with 6 inches in three hours. Across Canada, the consequences of extreme weather cost insurers a record $3.2 billion last year with floods in Toronto and Alberta leading the way.
The Hamilton 350 Committee is inviting residents to participate in the second national day of action on climate change by joining a rally on Saturday May 10 at 11 am at the GO Station. On May 14 the group joins 14 other local organizations in sponsoring a free forum on Hamilton’s response to climate change. It starts at 7 pm at the Hamilton Central Library and features renowned climate scientist Dr Gordon McBean and Durham Region’s manager of sustainability Brian Kelly as well as aboriginal voices. V