Lake water levels could increase another 3 to 6 inches by fall: ERCA

Some predictions from the Essex Region Conservation Authority are painting a worrisome picture that high water levels in Windsor-Essex are not yet peaking.
Instead, Tim Byrne, the head of watershed management for ERCA says a worst-case scenario could see levels on Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River and Lake Eire rise by another three-to six inches by the end of fall.
Byrne made the remarks in a presentation to Essex Town Council Monday evening.
He says it’s partly due to Lake Superior’s outflow, which is 138 per cent above the monthly long-term average, noting that water will eventually push into Lake Erie.
“Six inches is very concerning if we do happen to hit that level,” Byrne says.
Byrne tells CTV Windsor about 10,000 homes in Essex County sit on flood plains, also remarking a significant amount of municipal infrastructure would be exposed to potential damage, should water levels continue to rise.
“The level of Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie that we use to predict and project flood protection, that level’s already been exceeded by six inches,” Byrne says. “We have another six inches on that, we start losing the capability to have free-board and/or protection levels for houses and homes that are built in flood plains. So that is very concerning.”
ERCA’s watershed manager says it’s getting tougher and tougher to predict the effects of high water levels in this region because the mapping tools the authority uses are very outdated. Mapping and modelling allows the conservation authority to better predict future flooding events and flood protection measures, but those tools haven’t been updated since the 1970s and 80s.
“These events we’re seeing occur, lake levels, rainfall events, storm events, that all needs to be thrown into these models now,” he says. “These models need to be updated, and updated hazard lands and hazard assessments need to be completed.”
Byrne says ERCA will be going to all area councils in the near future to hopefully secure millions of dollars of funding.
“We can get matching funding federally and provincially but we have to have the war-chest here locally to say, ok, we have this money here locally, let’s make application at the grant rate that’s applicable.”
Byrne predicts the conservation authority will require about $10 to 15 million dollars over next five years to properly update the region’s flood mapping and modelling tools.

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