Waterford River flood plain study will lead to new development rules

The City of Mount Pearl has agreed to comply with any new flood plain management plan for the Waterford River as part of a major new study being conducted by the Department of Environment and Conservation.
Director of Planning and Development Stephen Jewczyk told council during its public meeting last week that the province needed a quick decision on the request so that it could start the work shortly.
The request actually arrived at City Hall just minutes before the regularly scheduled council meeting.
“The intention is that the study will start in October,” said Jewczyk, but the request for proposals for companies interested in doing the work was set to close on July 20 with a deadline to respond by August 20.
“This is something that we’ve been asking for the past two years,” Jewczyk added.
The completion date of the $350,000 study is March 31, 2016 and will affect all three municipalities through which the Waterford Rivers runs, Jewczyk said.
“We’re not just talking about the river, we’re talking about the actual watershed,” Jewczyk pointed out. “It’s a very expensive study, it involves a lot of modelling, it involves a lot of special geo-data, and is an update of our current flood risk mapping… And the important piece is that it will now include climate change factors. And that’s what we’ve been asking for.”
Mayor Randy Simms welcomed the news, noting Mount Pearl has been working in conjunction with the Town of Paradise and City of St. John’s to promote the health of the Waterford River.
“You’ll all recall that one of our goals was to have the cleanest urban river in Canada,” he said. “And one of the things we wanted to do is a study on the health of the river, which is a study that we’re negotiating and writing a terms of reference for now.”
That study is in addition to the one about to be carried out by the province.
Simms said in order to achieve the goal of having the cleanest urban river in Canada all three municipalities must employ a consistent approach in regulating the activity around it.
“And one of the ways to build that consistent approach is to actually know the river,” Simms said. “One of the things we don’t know about the river anymore, and we’ve heard that comment from our own residents, businesses and others, is that we don’t actually know where the flood plain really is anymore, we don’t know what’s impacting the river beyond what we’ve done ourselves. You’ve got to know where you’re coming from to know where you’re going. This is a very important piece of work.”
Simms said having the Department of Environment take such an aggressive approach to getting the study done is great for all the municipalities connected to the Waterford River.
Councillor Dave Aker asked whether developments that are already approved will be impacted by any new regulations that will be developed as part of the study.
“The way we work legally is that if there is a permit issued, they will be able to continue, if the permit was issued prior to the new flood plain mapping coming into effect,” Jewczyk said.
Once the plan comes into effect, Jewczyk added, the City will change its zoning regulations to accommodate it.
“I think what you will see if the flood plain has dramatically changed as a result of climate change and everything else, development that once existed outside (the flood plain) is now inside,” Mayor Simms said. “Encouraging those businesses to take mitigating action… is to their benefit.”

Posted on July 24, 2015 .