Flood prevention work to begin on Toronto Islands on Wednesday

Work to prevent flooding on the Toronto Islands is set to begin on Wednesday with record high water levels expected again later this year.

Already, Lake Ontario water levels are more than 12 centimetres above the levels this time last year, the city said in a news release on Tuesday. The plan is minimize damage and keep the islands open.

The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), with help from the city, is expected to start “accelerated flood and erosion control” work at Toronto Island Park and several waterfront locations to mitigate the “impacts of high lake water levels and shoreline flooding in Toronto.”

Rocks and dirt are being shipped from the city to the islands to build up the shoreline.

Matthew Johnston, senior manager of engineering projects for the TRCA, said the work is the first phase of emergency efforts designed to protect the Toronto Islands, the park and ferry terminal. He said the work is intended to be proactive.

“We’re going to be raising up the elevation of the material here. What the intent of that will be is to ensure that, as the lake levels rise, and as the waves start to come in, there won’t be as much wave action going on top and flooding the park area and everything behind us,” he said.

Johnston said details of how much the work will cost are still being worked out. “These are not cheap solutions,” he added.

The work includes:

  • Construction of a “beach curb structure” near the ferry terminal on Ward’s Island.
  • Reinforcements of two main roads, Lakeshore Avenue and Cibola Avenue, on Toronto Islands to ensure they do not get washed out.
  • Construction of a berm at Algonquin Island to fix a section of the island.

Johnston said the city is preparing for Lake Ontario water levels to be higher than normal and said levels could be as high as they were in 2017 and 2019, although he hopes that they will not be.

There could be “another high lake season” in 2020, he said.

The TRCA is working with Ports Toronto to arrange “barging services” to ensure material for the work can be shuttled to Toronto Island Park, the city said.

Brick rubble from demolition projects in Toronto will be repurposed for the berm planned for Algonquin Island. The city said the rubble is an environmentally sensitive alternative to quarrying and to buying material from outside the GTA.

Residents will sandbag while crews do erosion control work

While the work is happening, island residents are going to be tackling other sensitive areas with sandbags.

Oliver Fenton, a resident, says: “It’s a bit frustrating that year after year we have to redo everything because a lot of stuff gets taken away in the winter. And there’s constant upkeep to do, but I think it’s all necessary and it’s something that we’re going to have to do, regardless, until there is a permanent solution, if a permanent solution comes.”

The hope is to have all the heavy lifting done by May.

Past flooding has affected more than 800 residents, six island businesses, 30 waterfront businesses and two schools, and resulted in millions of dollars of damage, the city said.

Hundreds of thousands of people visit the Toronto Islands every year. On busy days in the summer, as many as 20,000 people a day ride the ferry.

In Toronto, improvements are also planned for drainage at the off-leash dog area shorelines at Cherry Beach and construction of a natural barrier at the eastern beaches, according to the city.


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