From CATCH, a not-for-profit citizens watchdog in the Hamilton, Ontario area.
(A Brief Foreword from NAL – Check this post out and consider Niagara in the equation. There are no borders on this one. When you read Hamilton, think Niagara because the greater Niagara region is being swamped with this environmental and economic catastrophe to.)
Residents on both sides of the bay are participating in next weekend’s global push for serious government action on climate change, while city staff warn councillors that Hamilton is unprepared for extreme rainfalls like the one that clobbered Burlington last month. Progress is being reported on catch basin maintenance, but staff say they still don’t have the budget to take care of culverts and stormwater ponds, and don’t even have the authority for flood management of most of the city streams.
The biggest climate demonstration in American history is predicted for New York on September 21 as over 125 world leaders gather for a summit called by the United Nations’ Secretary-General. Ban Ki-moon is frustrated with the failure of more than a decade of international climate negotiations – underlined by the news that greenhouse gas emissions, far from declining, are actually rising faster than ever and pushed atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide up nearly three parts per million in 2013.
While some people are joining the New York demonstration, there are also several local actions. On Saturday September 20, the Hamilton 350 Committee is holding a free screening and discussion of the new hour-long film Disruption starting at 7 pm at 281 Cannon Street (near Victoria).
Earlier that day, a march will wind its way through Burlington starting at 10 am at Spencer Smith Park. Organizers say Burlington Mayor Rick Goldring has promised to meet the participants at noon as they return to the park. And on September 23 Burlington Green continues its eco-film festival with a showing of Idle Threat at 7 pm in Burlington’s Central Library on New Street.
In the wake of Burlington’s civic holiday deluge that flooded over 3000 homes, the climate change challenges on this side of the bay have again been detailed by Hamilton city staff.
“What Environment Canada is telling us now is that we are going to experience higher intensity storms over small areas,” Darrell Smith explained to the public works committee. “Like the storm that hit Burlington just a few weeks ago do have high intensity rainfall that exceed the capacity of the infrastructure.”
Hamilton experienced an even bigger storm in 2012 that dumped 160 to 184 mm on Binbrook and parts of upper Stoney Creek in three hours, but because of the largely rural location, the number of flooded homes was far fewer than in Burlington or the over 7000 Hamilton homes inundated during storms in 2009.
Smith says the city is better prepared now, having established a dedicated full-time stormwater crew and begun cleaning Hamilton’s 42,000 catch basins at least once every two years, but significant challenges still exist.
A major one is the “significant backlog of stormwater management ponds that require rehabilitation work to return them to the functionality”. Of the 169 current ponds only five per year are being cleaned out, and the number continues to grow by about three a year because of new development. That growth also adds about 1500 new catch basins per year.
Smith says culvert maintenance is also underfunded with a “backlog of culverts that are in critical condition” and only enough money “to replace or repair them on a purely reactive basis.” And he warned that 80 percent of the city’s streams are privately owned and therefore not accessible to city crews for removal of debris that can worsen upstream flooding.
All of these challenges are magnified by the growing frequency of extreme weather which has caused flooding of some Hamilton homes twenty times in the last decade. Smith recalled working in Flamborough in the 1990s and experiencing two 100-year storms and a fifty-year one in a single year.
“During these severe storms that exceed the 100-year storm event, we could have every piece of equipment, every stormwater management pond and every pipe, every catch basin working to its capacity and we will still experience flooding and there’s not a thing we can do about it unfortunately,” he lamented.
The city has reduced its recorded corporate greenhouse gas emissions by 23 percent since 2005 although they rose last year as old natural gas buses were replaced by diesels. However, total city emissions amount to only about one percent of what gets dumped into the atmosphere by industrial, commercial and residential sources across Hamilton.
CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) updates use transcripts and/or public documents to highlight information about Hamilton civic affairs that is not generally available in the mass media. Detailed reports of City Hall meetings can be reviewed at hamiltoncatch.org.
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