By James Matthews
Flooding and subsequent finger-pointing has gone on long enough for Haliburton residents Cindy and Gary Rowden.
The Rowdens bought their County Road 21 property in 1995, the same year a nearby high school created another sports field. It’s also the same year flooding began, Cindy told Haliburton County council during its Aug. 16 meeting.
Their Haliburton Village property is designated residential farm land.
“We have kept that property in immaculate condition,” Cindy said. “But, unfortunately due to some ongoing things, we have had some problems with flooding.”
Cindy said she was a teacher for more than 40 years, “and never have I told kids that water flows upwards.”
Their property has become akin to a wetland, she said, and a nearby hydro pole is now submerged in three feet of water.
“And we’re supposed to put up with that?” she said.
The couple retained the services of Elliott and Elliott barristers and solicitors in Barrie to help find resolution to the issue.
“We’ve had enough,” Cindy said.
Her lawyer sent letters to the Trillium Lakeland District School Board, Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, Haliburton County and its public works department, and the Municipality of Dysart.
In the letter, lawyer Shari Elliott said the high school is the location of a beaver dam that causes the highway and the Rowden property to flood.
“The flooding that has resulted in damages to their land and the public road system commenced in 2005 when a culvert was improperly designed and installed on the county road which is in close proximity to my clients’ property and the high school,” Elliott wrote.
“Not only is the design and instalment clearly not sufficient, but there has been a consistent lack of maintenance resulting in the culvert being plugged causing the resulting flooding of this location.”
Cindy said the culverts used to have barely a foot of water in them. And a stream that runs through their property used to be about three feet wide. Now, Gary said, that waterway has bloated to about eight feet wide.
“We can no longer traverse the bottom of our property,” Cindy said.
Gary said all they’ve gotten in answer to their queries about the problem is finger-pointing.
The Minden Emergency Department closed this summer when services were consolidated at the Haliburton facility. And that makes the flood-prone highway in front of the Rowdens’ property more important.
“You have no idea how much that traffic has increased,” Cindy said. “The problems with the road, which also impact our property, have to be addressed before the road conditions cause a fatal accident.”
The shoulders of the road have washed away and she worries the hydro pole’s footing is becoming compromised by the water. Cindy calls for a long-term solution to address the flooding.
“What you’re doing isn’t working,” she said. “It’s as simple as that. We want some action.”
Councillor Murray Fearrey, the mayor of Dysart, said he’s aware of the problem and he watched it when he lived there. The flooding has gone on so long that the road itself is being damaged, he said.
“There has been no action,” he said.
Warden Liz Danielsen, who is the mayor of Algonquin Highlands, said a report on the matter from the county’s public works staff would help clarify the matter. Then the best action to rectify the problem can be determined.
Gary said that each time the county or the school board carries out work on the culvert in question, they seem to raise it about a foot.
“The water can’t get out,” he said. “The stream comes in, but the stream can’t get out because it’s all backed up.”
When he attended the high school, Gary said there was a foot bridge where the culvert has been installed. And there was no problem with the stream.
“In front of our place, you could walk around in your running shoes,” he said. “Now you need a set of hip waders.”
Coun. Lisa Schell, the deputy mayor of Minden Hills, said it’s the first she’s heard of the problem, but something clearly needs to be done.
Elliott, the Rowdens’ lawyer, agrees.
“Not only will my client commence a legal action, if required, but more importantly to ignore this glaring long standing safety issue could result in loss of life or serious injury to the travelling public and emergency personnel accessing this county road,” she wrote.
Danielsen said county staff will look into the flooding and come up with the best way toward a solution.
“We will look into this,” she said.