Sidney’s infrastructure performed well during the mid-November flooding, but potential problems may loom as the municipality grows against the backdrop of climate change, according to a staff report.
Prepared at the request of council in early December, the assessment found the municipal infrastructure “performed well in the storm” and that few changes to existing plans or budgets are needed at this time.
“You should be proud of public works,” Jenn Clary, Sidney’s director of engineering, told councillors sitting as committee of the whole at their Jan. 17 meeting in presenting the report.
Councillors drew a comparable conclusion.
“It seems like we are in relatively good shape,” Coun. Terri O’Keeffe said, echoing a prevailing sentiment.
Staff responded to 41 work orders related to flooding, with about 20 on private property, although not all of those residents alerted the municipality. Private property issues were caused by a variety of factors, including unmaintained perimeter drains or roots in the connection, the report stated.
The cases where town crews responded were scattered across the community, not in clusters, committee learned. “If there was a specific issue within one storm drain system, we would expect that work orders would be clustered in certain catchment area,” Clary said.
Due to the lack of patterns in calls, staff could not accurately answer one of the five questions from council’s December request, namely, how much of the municipality’s storm drain system was over capacity and by how much.
According to staff, the municipality does not have instruments to monitor storm drainage flow, thereby making it impossible to accurately answer the question. Reay Creek, described as an important component of the municipal storm drain system on the south side of Sidney, experienced the most significant flooding, but incidents of localized flooding were also seen throughout the community, the report stated.
The Reay Creek dam held up very well, Clary said during her presentation, with flooding happening downstream as expected.
The creek area also featured prominently in the analysis of Sidney’s sewer pumps, which ran at full capacity but performed well.
One area of concern was the pump station at Frost Avenue located downstream of the dam. While it continued to run during the storm, parts of it were underwater, leading Clary to suggest relocating the station would be a good idea. Such a move would require a significant amount of planning and money, she noted.
While moving the station was already on staff’s radar, the heavy rain event provided a real eye opener, Clary said. Staff, meanwhile, are pursuing a shorter-term solution by raising the pump’s electrical components.
Less straightforward and far more expensive would be upgrades to the pipes that make up Sidney’s storm water system.
A 2016 study based on growth projected in the Official Community Plan (OCP) but excluding West Sidney, and accounting for 15 per cent more rain due to climate change, found 27 per cent of Sidney’s existing storm drain system was under-sized for future storm events.
Up-sizing those pipes would be a lengthy project, not to mention expensive, Clary said. She hoped council would agree to fund a study into alternatives.
“We are really hoping that there are other options for managing large flow events like this, so we don’t have to up-size all of our drains,” she said.
Given the proposed increase in Sidney’s residential density under the new OCP being drafted, Coun. Peter Wainwright said the municipality could expect the actual share of undersized storm pipes to be higher than 27 per cent.
Following the discussion, the committee approved forwarding a $10,000 addition for storm repairs operations to the 2022 budget talks.
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