Repairs to continue all summer

Torrential rains that caused flooding throughout the district last week may be subsiding, but it will take months for the damage to be completely repaired.
Highway 11 to Atikokan, the last major highway still closed due to flooding, was expected to re-open sometime today after the construction of a modular bridge at Price Creek.
“They should have it launched just about now and the plan is still to have it open for traffic late Wednesday,” Ministry of Transportation regional director Larry Lambert said Tuesday afternoon.
Highway 502 to Dryden was fully opened to traffic Sunday.
Of the secondary highways, only 600 and 619 in the west end of the district remain closed due to water over the road.
“Everything else requires lots and lots of clean-up and repair,” Lambert said.
While crews have been working around the clock for the last week to fix damaged culverts and roads, repairs are expected to continue all summer.
Lambert said the totals haven’t been calculated yet but he expects the repairs easily will cost $2 million—if nothing else goes wrong.
“There could easily be washouts with fresh gravel,” he said, adding another smaller system of thunderstorms was set to hit this area today.
“[The conditions] are still very extreme,” agreed Ministry of Natural Resources spokesperson Bill Darby of the logging roads in area. “There are many washouts and areas where there is water over the roads.”
“There are some of the roads which we are in the process of closing and others that should be treated with extreme caution,” Darby warned.
He expected it would be months before all forest access roads were repaired and urged all motorists to stay clear of gravel roads as much as possible.
While there haven’t been any accidents due to poor road conditions over the last week, OPP also is calling on drivers to continue travelling with caution, especially since road shoulders remain unstable.
They also are warning of other dangers connected with rising waters.
“Young children are attracted to water and culverts,” Fort Frances OPP Sgt. Steve Shouldice noted. “We’ve had a lot of reports of children playing near culverts and dikes so we ask people to keep a closer eye on their kids near water.”
In the past week, district residents have coped with closed roads, power outages, lack of phone service, and calls to boil well water in addition to bailing out basements or sandbagging waterfronts.
On Friday, Municipal Affairs and Housing minister Chris Hodgson declared the entire Rainy River District a disaster area, making it eligible for funding under the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program.
NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton was pleased with the announcement.
“I’m pleased . . . Hodgson has responded to my calls for assistance by offering emergency relief to the people of Northwestern Ontario,” Hampton said in a press release.
Hampton urged all municipalities affected by the torrential rain to apply for funding under ODRAP since it is a source of financial aid for private property owners and businesses not covered by insurance.
Atikokan Mayor Dennis Brown said aid would be helpful, especially in his area which was hit particularly hard by the floods.
But he added aid wouldn’t cover all the costs local businesses incurred after more than a week of being cut off from the rest of Rainy River District due to the washout at Price Creek.
“A lot of people do business with Fort Frances and we have a number of tourists from the U.S. who have had to take alternate routes at their own expense if they could get here at all,” Mayor Brown noted.
He said the experience was even more frustrating since rain water had little to do with the Price Creek washout.
“That last part of the road at Price Creek . . . was caused by a beaver dam breaking,” he remarked, a theory supported by Lambert.
Mayor Brown said a number of beaver dams are located alongside the highway between Mine Centre and Kashabowie.
“There has to be some way of removing some of the beavers and reducing the size of the dams so this doesn’t happen again,” he said.
“It has a tremendous effect on local businesses and residents, and it’s another expense that they shouldn’t have to have.”

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