Climate Change

Flooding? In a River Valley? Perish the Thought

By Ryan McGreal
Published July 09, 2010

Denial: It's not just a river in the Red Hill Valley.

I read this Spectator report on flooding on the RHVP with a little bit of schadenfreude but mostly just old-fashioned frustration.

We built a highway in an environmentally sensitive river basin and proceeded to pave over all the land at the top of the river that might otherwise absorb some of the storm water. What on earth were we expecting would happen?

Now city officials tell us, "flood-related closures of the parkway, such as the one that took place after Wednesday's rain, may become a feature of life for highway users."

The fun part now - and again, by "fun" I mean "depressing" - will be watching the blame game.

The engineers will argue they hit all the professional benchmarks based on the industry standard idea of the "hundred-year storm" (of which we've apparently had three make that four within the past year).

The planners will likewise indicate that they followed all the accepted best practices and met all the objectives to which council had directed them.

The consultants will note that they worked from the city's own criteria and point to staff and council signing off on their reports.

The politicians - if they acknowledge a problem at all - will insist that the standards were sound but the situation has changed and no one could possibly have anticipated that the climate would suddenly start changing with no advance warning.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By trevorlikesbikes (registered) - website | Posted July 09, 2010 at 12:04:02

i love it when it floods! makes me giggle like a schoolgirl!

Just wait until they pave the remaining greenspace at the top for that 12 day a year parking lot!

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted July 09, 2010 at 12:09:36

This is surprising! And by 'surprising' I mean 'not surprising at all'!!

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By randomguy (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2010 at 12:28:15

Wait until the new stadium floods.

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By adrian (registered) | Posted July 09, 2010 at 12:48:32

It's The Four-Times Annual Once-In-A-Hundred-Years Storm!

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 09, 2010 at 12:49:25

funny how every time in rains for half an hour now it's called a '100 year storm' LOL. Also funny how these 100 year storms only seem to affect Red Hill, but not the 403, QEW, Linc, 401, DVP etc.... But the Spec says that climate change is to blame, not the design/location of the highway, so I'll believe them. After all, if it's in print it must be true.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted July 09, 2010 at 12:54:55

Well "quarterly storm" doesn't have the same dramatic ring to it.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted July 09, 2010 at 12:58:45

Somebody needs to give their design award back.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted July 09, 2010 at 13:00:57

"It's not designed wrong; the water stays in the valley," he said. "Unfortunately, it goes across the road but it's not going into neighbourhoods and basements."

I declare the RHVP an unqualified success!!

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2010 at 13:02:59

Remove the surrounding trees & vegetation. Make a flat dirt & clay plain. Then call it the Mudd! Street Flash Flood Zone Expressway. Canoes must take the slow lane, sailing craft get the middle lanes, & power boats can have the speed lane, & "Watch your wake"!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted July 09, 2010 at 13:14:50

Breaking news: RHVP closure planned for this afternoon.

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By Don McLean (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2010 at 14:04:43

Perhaps it should be renamed the Red Hill Valley Floodway. During the expressway debate, there were specific warnings about flooding problems, but the city's consultants concluded things would be fine. What never happened was an environmental assessment. The city spent several million on legal and court costs to prevent the 1999 federal assessment from proceeding, arguing that the road was already 60 percent built (they said it was part of the Linc) and that 1980s studies were sufficient. Global concern about climate change led to the founding of the IPCC in 1989, but the implications of climate change were never examined in city-commissioned studies on Red Hill. Blocking the federal environmental assessment ensured that climate change would not be considered.

The next big spending spree is the aerotropolis. No formal environmental assessment is required.

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted July 09, 2010 at 14:30:17

Maybe they could convert the RHVP into a Los Angeles River-style drainage channel. I understand that LA has had some success in attracting film shoots to this location.

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By frank (registered) | Posted July 09, 2010 at 15:08:40

Jason it's not the only place that's flooding! Both the underpasses at Centennial and Kenilworth were also closed and there were significant problems on the QEW during the first outburst this week! Being a weather buff you ought to know that the intensities of the storms we've received of late are higher than they were previously. What people fail to understand is that just because something's called a "100 year storm" doesn't mean it comes every hundred years. The RHVP isn't perfect and if I'm not mistaken the design award wasn't for the parkway itself it was for the realignment of the creek proper.

Grates on the retention/detention ponds need to be changed and sprawl on the mountain needs to stop. Attempting to be objective, here's the problem as I see it: a roadway was designed in a river valley to handle a 100 year storm that historically may have been accurate however is no longer accurate. At the same time, our wonderful developers continued to pave over land to build more roadways and driveways and build more houses which in turn creates a far greater run off than before as can be seen by the huge rock that was moved during the first major storm last year.

Problems are these:

-the highway is in a flood basin

-the CN tracks cross the highway south of Barton and it's difficult to raise them. I believe the maximum grade is 1:18 and the rail line would likely need to be closed during construction however short that time may be.

-sprawl development creates higher flow rates downstream

-the grates over the outlets on the detention ponds are filled with debris that comes down over the escarpment and gets picked up because of high water levels.

Combine all these and you get a highway that floods during heavy storms.

Is there a solution? Perhaps - change the grates, improve water retention in developments on the mountain... changing the roadway elevation is highly unlikely because of logistical problems. It's also possible to create earth berms that can contain water as it rises higher...these are just less aesthetically pleasing.

Should this have been foreseen? Maybe - during the design phase climate change was already occurring and it could have been easy at that stage to over design the water retention systems. Stop building houses and roads - build up not out; increase the capacity of the same square footage without creating more storm run off. I believe the effects of development on the east mountain were underestimated.

Emotionally attacking a roadway just because you don't like it isn't logical - it clouds judgement. As far as giggling when it floods, I'd much rather laugh at the idiot who continues going 110 down the highway as they watch the river lap at the roadway fully expecting that his Bridgestones will save him from the idiot doing the same thing beside or behind him. Or the dummy that gets stuck trying to wade his car through over a foot of water in an underpass. Some peoples' level of idiocy never ceases to amaze me!

Edit: take a look at the rainfall amounts for the mountain areas: 50-75mm so far only today!

Comment edited by frank on 2010-07-09 14:56:00

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By ath (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2010 at 18:24:27

Gee I wonder how the Ti-Cats are gonna get to their new Stadium with their beloved expressway flooded out. Oh well, at least the Argonauts will be able to make it.

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By jason (registered) | Posted July 09, 2010 at 19:46:40

Both the underpasses at Centennial and Kenilworth were also closed

I noticed this today too. All this fact proves is that our brand new highway was designed with the same skill and expertise as multi-decade old rail-lines in the north end of the city that forced the steep and awkward dips along Kenilworth and Centennial which flood almost every time it rains out. I thought we were designing something 21st Century, not 1940's.

And by the way, I wouldn't pay any attention to 'amateur' rain gauges that the Spec loves to seek out for these stories. Environment Canada has professional stations that monitor rainfall all across southern Ontario.
I am a weather buff, and I know this much - it was raining lightly/moderately this morning for about 45 minutes when the highway started flooding over. The heavy rain didn't come until after they were already closing it down. And todays heavy rain was typical for any cold front coming through after a sticky spell. We get rainfall like that many times per year and have as long as weather records go back.

The massive parade of t-storms last July were truly a wild event. Everything since then has been typical.
Heck, no rainfall warnings or even advisories were needed today due to the common nature of the rain.

At least the city is being honest and telling us to get used to it, just like we're used to it on Kenilworth North and Centennial North.

Comment edited by jason on 2010-07-09 18:47:21

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By Bill (anonymous) | Posted July 09, 2010 at 19:55:56

After "Hurricane Hazel" in the mid 50's The Government "MANDATED" that all area's that were or could be potential floodplains must be "Engineered" for the future likelihood of another such event. It looks obvious that this was not applied to The Red Hill Creek Expressway. Was that allowed because the Province was not "Picking Up The Tab" and Queens Park does not give a Damn what the "Clowns" who run Hamilton inflict on their Taxpayers as long as the "Oink's" can be seduced at voting time to vote Liberal?

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted July 10, 2010 at 01:09:48

@Jason

"And by the way, I wouldn't pay any attention to 'amateur' rain gauges that the Spec loves to seek out for these stories. Environment Canada has professional stations that monitor rainfall all across southern Ontario. "

I use those gauges because they provide information that Environment Canada does not. If I were to only use the official rain gauge at Mount Hope airport, I would tell you that only 1.2mm of rain feel on Wednesday and that 1.2mm of rain caused flooding.

The reality is that the amateur rain gauge I cited provided a figure that was similar to radar estimates. In terms of rain fall this morning, Environment Canada's Mount Hope gauge reported 50.1 mm and 33 mm of it fell from 8 am - 2 pm today. The radar estimates showed higher amounts in the east end of Hamilton. This is why I use the amateur gauges which provide additional information to readers.

There is only one Environment Canada gauge in Hamilton - at the airport.

You are more than welcome to be skeptical - a good reader always is. As a reporter, I always work to verify the reliability of information. I hope my explaination assists you in understanding the story.

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By frank (registered) | Posted July 10, 2010 at 01:46:48

JoeyColeman is right. It absolutely poured here this morning! So trust me the rain gauges were correct. The amount of rain actually woke me up this morning. So perhaps it wasn't raining there but I promise you that the east mountain and my area got the amount of rain you're reading. Trust them or not, that's your choice but Im with Joey.

I know you're a weatherbuff, so why do you even trust the EnCan station on the mountain? I don't even pay attention to it for temperatures anymore.

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By Timber (registered) | Posted July 10, 2010 at 13:02:46

"Is there a solution? Perhaps - change the grates, improve water retention in developments on the mountain...It's also possible to create earth berms that can contain water as it rises higher...these are just less aesthetically pleasing."

This is what the city needs to invest in to fix the flooding issue.

http://www.floodbarrier.nl/home_video.ht...

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By Yukon (anonymous) | Posted July 10, 2010 at 13:45:10

Timber, That "flood barrier" looks great. What an idea it looks like it could work in other areas too.

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted July 10, 2010 at 17:37:37

Awesome video Timber!

It has taken me the better part of a decade to flood-proof my home in the lower east side of Hamilton, all along facing due south. I suspect I might know why it rains so hard at times but must admit no amount of good science can solve the problems bad science has created and mated into seasonal rhymes. There is a spiritual element controlling the elements that political correctness seldom explores for signs.

Suffering is no laughing matter though, and I do not believe any posters here were suggesting that as being a joyful thing with their grade-schooled giggles every time IT pours bling. Lack of sympathy for Bridgestone idiots? Grants of Compassion? Have we never splashed anyone outside the safety and comfort of our own refreshingly cool pools of water just for the jeering jolt of IT's reaction?

The anecdote is, just jump right in. I felt a great relief from the rain which ended a brutally insane heatwave. I felt the full force of the stifling heat with my coworkers and colleagues in the trades; There were no fans or energy sucking condensers belching cool creature comfort into our work environments during latest sizzling, sweat sweltering suffocation of the smart heart. Many of us danced to a song of blessing for the fresh air and much needed moisture drenching us all to the bone, and I praise the Lord for sparing my own personal home. I felt reinvigorated and I laughed happily without reservation for I was hardly alone in my stewed consternation.

Red Hill Valley Parkway Flooding, hmmm? Climate Change? Damn, I sure wish I could stirrup a huge sum to solve problems like this experienced one. Fare thee well and ho-hum, I guess the next time IT rains hard, some had better pray for the sun or run from their ward.

FWIW my friends, I encourage y'all to take a moment and vote in the Jamilton Talent Search between now and July 16. There was one single song which made tears dance like rain on my cheeks. I listened to all 26 semi-finalists' entries and chose the one that I felt truly moved me the most, emotionally and with deep inspiration. To be fair, I will reserve my personal choice for now but I will share the field of musicians I narrowed down-to before choosing:

Wyde Steve Bick Rumbleshack Petit Fours Peter Tigchelaar Margaret Boyce Mass Conception Mackensie Meyer Lost Wald Laura Beesley The Ize The Human Race

IT's our Festival of Friends folks.

Voting results and social media promotion on twitter and facebook will be reviewed by a panel of judges and a final six will be determined in late July These finalists will perform before the panel of judges at the Festival Friends.

The winner selected from the final live portion of competition will be presented with at $3,000 Vibewrangler recording session prize and will also receive a spot on the Festival of Friends 2011 main stage.

Please support Hamilton's local talent pools, get out there and vote for some jewels!

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2010-07-10 16:46:55

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By G.C. Beare (anonymous) | Posted July 10, 2010 at 17:55:55

If over-development along East Hamilton Mountain continues, these flooding problems will grow much worse. Using "climate change" as a scapegoat for the blame game will not fool the public for much longer.

I like the "flood prone" signs on the Kenilworth underpass. That fixed everything. We'd better print off a bunch more of those signs for the Red Hill Valley Expressway ASAP.

We always "plan big" in the City Of Hamilton. But in the end we always settle for much less. Why is that?

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By WRCU2 (registered) | Posted July 10, 2010 at 18:12:42

We always "plan big" in the City Of Hamilton. But in the end we always settle for much less. Why is that?

Because we haven't experienced the best of a new media yet.

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By MattJelly (registered) - website | Posted July 11, 2010 at 11:06:07

I had a chat with Larry about this: http://mattjelly.wordpress.com/larry/

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By RonPlinte (registered) | Posted July 12, 2010 at 08:07:57

(MattJelly, way to keep holding Larry Dianni accountable for his complicity in cheerleading the expressway. He was the one in the mayor’s chair in 2003 when our natural legacy, the Niagara Escarpment forest, at King’s Forest Park, was clearcut and bulldozed, and other “environmental improvements” were undertaken!)

When I saw Saturday’s front page image of a car surfing off of the Red Hill-can-it-be-called-a-boondoggle-yet Monstrosity, I would have “laughed like a school…” boy, if it wasn’t for the tragedy of all those 100’s of millions of dollars in public expense, and years of debt burden we are saddled with thanks to the Hamilton Council expressway “zealots”.

What I did do was tip my Tilley hat to Don McLean, Joe Minor and the legions of active citizens, whose volunteer work in the public good consistently raised these kinds of concerns to Hamilton Council about the ill-fated expressway. I now recall witnessing in a Toronto courtroom, along with Friends of Red Hill Valley, how Hamilton’s expensive lawyers fought off the environmental assessment of the expressway implemented by the Canadian government, on technicalities. It is becoming crystal clear now that this was not in the best interest of the proper planning of this massive public project.

Comment edited by RonPlinte on 2010-07-12 07:36:22

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By RonPlinte (registered) | Posted July 15, 2010 at 14:21:20

Councillor Terry Whitehead on CHML’s noon program today: (paraphrased) “The expressway was designed correctly, to the standards of that time. Rainstorms are becoming more intense.” My question then is, why weren’t the expressway councillors knowledgeable about climate change before the bulldozers assaulted the Valley, when citizens were informing them at the time that climate change would impact the flooding of the expressway? Was the City’s public participation program inadequate to allow these type of democratic contributions of its citizens to the feasibility and design of the project?

Then, Brian Baetz, Dept. of Civil Engineering, McMaster University, on the 1230 pm news: “The expressway is a failed experiment.” (with reference to the flooding of the roadway four times in the past 12 months)

Ron Plinte

Comment edited by RonPlinte on 2010-07-15 13:28:16

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted July 21, 2010 at 12:33:15

G.C. Beare : "Using 'climate change' as a scapegoat for the blame game will not fool the public for much longer."

Indeed. The change has been afoot for at least 25 years.

"Data released from the US's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Climatic Data Center shows that June 2010 was a record breaker. It was the warmest month of June globally since record-taking began in 1880 and it is the 304th month in a row that has been above the 20th Century average. The last month to fall below the average was February 1985."

http://news.mongabay.com/2010/0720-hance_june_temp.html

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By Once in a 17 day storm (anonymous) | Posted July 28, 2010 at 17:38:23

it's been raining for about twenty minutes. Anyone know if the Red Hill is closed yet?

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By Ida (anonymous) | Posted August 03, 2010 at 21:59:49

What would be a solution for the flooding in the valley?

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted October 28, 2010 at 13:19:53

http://www.thespec.com/news/crime/article/271575--burlington-street-still-on-worst-roads-list

"This year, the CAA decided to survey motorists on the best roads in Ontario and Hamilton scored three in the top 20. They are: No. 5, the Red Hill Valley Expressway, No. 6, King Street at No. 6 and Highway 6 at No. 11."

I love that potholes merit inclusion under a "crime" subset.

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