District still reeling from floods

The Township of La Vallee followed Emo in asking the province to declare it a disaster area in response to two days of torrential rain that hammered the district earlier this week.
Highways connecting the area to Dryden and Atikokan still were closed as of press time Thursday while Rainy River residents were warily watching rising river levels this morning.
Highway 71 to Kenora has been re-opened to daytime traffic only and the bridge on Highway 11 at La Vallee has been opened to single-lane traffic.
Highways 611 S and 613 S are now open again but the OPP is warning drivers to use caution. But Highway 11 at Price Creek and Highway 502 at Highway 11 were still closed today.
Kathy Grantis, emergency information officer with the provincial Emergency Measures Office, said that as of press time today, Rainy River and Atikokan were still listed as in states of emergency while La Vallee and Emo had declared disaster areas.
Dawson and Lake of the Woods earlier had declared states of emergency but have since rescinded those.
“I think the situation is still dire,” Grantis said, but added communities are handling the crisis admirably.
Grantis explained the difference between a state of emergency and a disaster area. “The difference is that a declared disaster area leaves for compensation from Municipal Affairs and Housing,” she noted.
This compensation could include repair efforts and damage incurred by the municipality as well as money for individual property owners, though it is too soon to tell who will get money and how much.
In related news, exams at Rainy River High School were cancelled for students in Grade 9-11 students due to the flooding. Grade 12 and OAC students there, as well as all students at Fort Frances High School, were writing exams as scheduled Thursday.
Warren Hoshizaki, education director with the Rainy River District School Board, said they will continue to treat those students who can’t make exams on an individual basis.
But Wednesday, only 25 students were unable to make it to FFHS, he noted this morning.
“The responsibility students have taken to make sure that they get to exams is really commendable,” Hoshizaki remarked.
“Rainy River has been a little different because the kids are helping out in the community but the sense is the same that kids in Grade 12 and OAC are very responsible and we’ve had a lot of co-operation with students and parents,” he added.
At Queen’s Park on Wednesday, NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton called on the province to offer compensation to Rainy River District in wake of the torrential rains.
“As you will know, this is the second time in two years that this kind of flooding has happened, so many people and many municipalities have suffered very serious damage,” Hampton said during Question Period.
“I want to know what you are prepared to do to ensure that communities get the help they need now, right now, to have roads restored, hydro restored, and other important services restored?” he asked.
Brian Coburn, associate minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, responded that the government has representatives from Emergency Measures Ontario, and the ministries of Municipal Affairs, Natural Resources, and Transportation, on site working with municipalities to alleviate the situation.
“As a result of last year, as well, when the province responded quickly, we have responded in the same manner this year,” Coburn continued. “We were there with financial assistance.
“Whatever aid, whatever is needed to alleviate the immediate situation, is certainly the direction that is given to our people on the ground. . . .”
Hampton said he was concerned that last year, Fort Frances, Rainy River, and rural communities had to wait more than a year for funding to cover extensive property damage, and that many municipalities didn’t get money to help them repair their roads until earlier this spring.
“Can you assure people that the financial assistance will arrive in a timely way and people will not be forced to wait 12 months, 15 months, before they see the money that they need to make these essential repairs and restore the property damage?” Hampton asked.
“I can assure the leader of the third party that we will do everything in our power to alleviate the hardship that the residents are facing up there on a timely basis, and the financial assistance that’s needed to restore the community to its former situation,” Coburn countered.

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